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Dr. O. Johnson. 



From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the 
British Protectorate 



Pastor of Oyo 


DR. O. JOHNSON, Lagos 


First published 1921 
Reprinted 1937 
Reprinted 1956 
Reprinted 1957 
Reprinted 1960 



What led to this production was not a burning desire of the author 
to appear in print — as all who are well acquainted with him will 
readily admit — but a purely patriotic motive, that the history of 
our fatherland might not be lost in oblivion, especially as our old 
sires are fast dying out. 

Educated natives of Yoruba are well acquainted with the 
history of England and with that of Rome and Greece, but of the 
history of their own country they know nothing whatever ! This 
reproach it is one of the author's objects to remove. 

Whilst the author cotild claim to be a pioneer in an untrodden 
field, he can by no means pretend to have exhausted the subject ; 
but he hopes by this to stimulate among his more favoured brethren 
the spirit of patriotism and enquiry into the histories of the less 
known parts of the country. It may be that oral records are 
preserved in them which are handed down from father to son, 
as in the case of the better known Royal bards in the Metropolis, 
such records though imperfect should surely not be under-rated. 

In the perusal of this feeble attempt, the author craves the 
forbearance of his readers ; he deprecates the spirit of tribal 
feelings and petty jealousies now rife among us. In recording 
events of what transpired, good or bad, failures and successes, 
among the various tribes, he has endeavoured to avoid whatever 
would cause needless offence to anyone, or irritate the feelings of 
those specially interested in the narratives, provided only that the 
cause of truth, and of public benefit be faithfully served. 

With respect to the ancient and mythological period he has 
stated the facts as they are given by the bards, and with respect 
to the History of comparatively recent dates, viz., from the time 
of King Abiodun downwards, from eye-witnesses of the events 
which they narrate, or from those who have actually taken part 
in them. He has thus endeavoured to present a reliable record of 

He is greatly indebted especially to the honoured David Kukomi, 
the patriarch of the Ibadan Church, (the now sainted father of 
the Rev. R. S. Oyebode). Kukomi was a young man in the days 
of King Abiodun, and it was his fortune (or misfortune) to take 
part in the wars and other national movements of the period as 
a common soldier, and was thus able to give a clear and reliable 
account of the sajdngs, persons, and events of those stirring times, 
being a cool man of judgment, observant, and remarkably 


Also to Josiah Oni, an intrepid trader in those days, an active 
and intelligent observer who was well acquainted with almost 
every part of the country, and took part in some of the most stirring 
events of a later period. 

And last though not least to his highness the venerable Lagunju, 
the renowned Timi of Ede, so well known all over the country as a 
gifted and trusty historian of the Yoruba Country. 

And to others also who are not here mentioned by name. 

The histories of all nations present many phases and divers 
features, which are brought out by various writers in the lines in 
which each is interested ; the same method we hope will be pursued 
by writers in this country until we become possessed of a fuller 
History ot the Yorubas. 

Oyo, 1897. Aiila Ogun. 


A SINGULAR . misfortune, which happily is not of everyday 
occurrence, befel the original manuscripts of this history, in 
consequence of which the author never lived to see in print his 
more than 20 years of labour. 

The manuscripts were forwarded to a well-known English 
publisher through one of the great Missionary Societies in 1899 and 
— mirabile dictu — nothing more was heard of them ! 

The editor who was all along in collaboration with the author 
had occasion to visit England in 1900, and called on the 
publisher, but could get nothing more from him than that the 
manuscripts had been misplaced, that they could not be found, 
and that he was prepared to pay for them ! This seemed to the 
editor and all his friends who heard of it so strange that one could 
not help thinking that there was more in it than appeared on the 
surface, especially because of other circumstances connected with 
the so-called loss of the manuscripts. However, we let the subject 
rest there. The author himself died in the following year (1901), 
and it hcis now fallen to the lot of the editor to rewrite the whole 
history anew, from the copious notes and rough copies left behind 
by the author. 

But for many years after his death, partly from discouragements 
by the events, and partly from being appalled by the magnitude 
of the task, the editor shrank from the undertaking, but circum- 
stances now and again cropped up showing the need of the work, 
and the necessity for undertaking it ; besides the almost criminal 
disgrace of allowing the outcome of his brother's many years of 
labour to be altogether lost. No one, who has never made the 
attempt, can have the faintest idea of the great difficulties that 
attend the efforts to elicit facts and accuracy of statements from 
an illiterate people : they are bewildering with repetitions, prolix 
in matters irrelevant, while facts germane to the subject in hand 
are more often than not passed over : they have to be drawn out 
by degrees patiently, and the chaff has to be constantly sifted from 
the wheat. In no sphere of labour is patience and perseverance 
more required than in this. It shows strongly the magnitude of 
the labours of the original author, labours undertaken along with 
the unremitting performance of his substantive duties. 

When all this had to be done with the daily exactions of a busy 
profession, and other demands on his time, friends will judge the 
editor leniently for having taken such a long time to repair the loss 
sustained many years ago. Some chapters had to be rewritten, 

X editor's preface 

some curtailed, others amplified, and new ones added where 

But this history has a history of its own, for apart from the 
mishap that befel the original manuscripts as above detailed, its 
vicissitudes were not yet over. When at last the task of re-writing 
it was completed, jt was forwarded to England by the " Appam," 
which left Lagos on the 2nd of January, 19 16. The Appam was 
at first supposed to be lost, but was afterwards found in America, 
having been captured by the raider Moewe. Nothing was heard 
of the manuscripts again for nearly two years, when they were at 
last delivered to the printers ! By that time, paper haci become 
so dear in England that it was deemed advisable to wait till after 
the War before printing. The manuscripts were next sent back by 
request to the editor, wl^o in order to obviate a future loss, under- 
took to have it typewritten, but in the meantime even j;ypewriting 
paper became difficult to obtain. All these drawbacks were success- 
fully overcome in the end, as well as the difficulties in passing the 
work through the press. 

He now lets the book go forth to the public, in the hope that it 
will fulfil the earnest desire of the original author. 


Ajagbe Ogun. 




§1. Introduction xix 

§2. The Yoruba Language xxiii 

§3. A Sketch of Yoruba Grammar . . . xxxiii 


Origin and Early History i 


The Origin of the Tribes 15 


Religion 26 


Government 40 


Yoruba Names 79 


Yoruba Towns and Villages 90 


The Principles of Land Law 95 


Manners and Customs 98 

§(a) Social polity ....... 98 

§(6) Facial marks ....... 104 

§{c) Diet 109 

§{i) Dress no 

§{e) Marriage 113 

§(/) Trades and professions . . . . • "7 

l{g) Learning 125 

§(A) Wealthy Personages ..... 126 

§(») The Iwofa system ...... 126 

§(;■) Distraining for debt 130 

§(*) War 131 

§(/) Funerals 137 









CHAPTER I. — The Founders of the Yoruba Nation 
Oduduwa ........ 143 

Oranyan ........ 143 

Ajuan alias Ajaka ....... 148 

Sango alias Olufiran . . . . . .149 

Ajaka's second reign ...... 152 



CHAPTER II.— Historical Kings 

§1. Aganju 155 

§2. Kori 155 

§3. Oluaso 158 

§4. Onigbogi 158 

§5. Ofinran 159 

§1. Eguguoju 
§2. Orompoto 
§3. Ajiboyede 
§4. Abipa or Oba m'oro 

-The Kings of Oyo Igboho 


CHi^I'TER IV. — A Succession of Despotic Kings 

§1. Oba lokun Agana Erin ...... 168 

§2. Ajagbo ......... 168 

§3. Odarawu ........ 169 

§4. Karan 170 

§5. Jayin . . . 170 

§6. Ayibi 172 

§7. Osinyago 173 

§8. Ojigi 174 

§9. Gberu 175 

§10. Amuniwaiye ........ 175 

§11. Onisile 176 

CHAPTER V. — Basorun GahA and his Atrocities and 
Abiodun's Peaceful Reign 

§1. Labisi 178 

§2. Awonbioju alias Oduboye ..... 178 

§3. Agboluaje ........ 178 

§4. Alaje ogbe ........ 180 

§5. Abigdun alias Adegolu ...... 182 

§6. Abiodun's peaceful reign ...... 186 


CHAPTER VI.— The Revolution 

§1. Aole surnamed Arogangan 

§2. The King's enemies . 

§3. The rebellion of the Oyo Chiefs 

§4. The rising of Ojo Agunbambaru 

§5. Maku 



CHAPTER VII —The Rise of the Fulanis to Power 

§1. The spread of anarchy and fall of Afonja . . . 197 

§2. The first attempt to recover Ilorin. Battle of Ogele . 200 

§3. The second attempt : The Mugba mugba War . . 201 

§4. TheBattleof Pamo 202 

CHAPTER VIII.— Consequences of the Revolution 

§r. The Owu War 206 

§2. The Lasinmi War ....... 210 

§3. State of the Capital at this period .... 212 

CHAPTER IX, — Further Development of the Anarchy 

§r. Evil days for the Capital ...... 217 

§2. The third attempt to recover Ilorin. The Kanla war 218 

§3. The vicissitudes of Iko3d . . . . . .219 

§4. The Gbogun War ....... 220 

§5. The Pole War and death of Abudusalami . . . 222 

CHAPTER X. — Spread of the Anarchy 

§1. Devastation of Egba towns and villages . . . 223 

§2. Foundation of Abeokuta ...... 225 

§3. The Egbado Tribes ....... 226 

§4. The founding of Modakeke ..... 230 

CHAPTER XL— The Revolution in the Epo Districts 

§1. The destruction of the Epos, and death of Ojo Amepo . 234 

§2. The occupation of Ijaye and end of Dado . . 236 
§3. How Ibadan became a Yoruba town. The Gbanamu and 

Erumu Wars ....... 238 

§4. The Settlement of Ibadan ..... 244 

CHAPTER XII. — Wars for the Consolidation and Balance 
of Power 

§1. The evacuation of Opomu and Owiwi War . . . 247 
§2. The fall of Ilaro and Ijana 248 


CHAPTER XII.— (coniinued) 

§3. The Orayefun War ....... 250 

§4. The Arakanga or Jabara War . . . . .251 

§5. The Onidesg and Oke I§ero Wars .... 252 

§6, The Iperu War ....... 253 

§7. The faU of Ota 255 

CHAPTER XIII.— The Last of Katunga 

§1. Final efforts to throw off Fulani yoke . . . 258 

§2. The Eleduwg War 263 

CHAPTER XIV.— The Interregnum 

§1. Civil war at Abemo ....... 269 

§2. The destruction of Abemo 271 




CHAPTER XV.— The New City, New Government, Ilorin 


§1. Prince Atiba, early life and history .... 274 

§2. Atiba's accession ....... 279 

§3. Conferring of titles ....... 280 

§4. The Osogbo War 285 

§5. The expulsion of ElSpo from Ibadan . . . 289 

CHAPTER XVI.— Fratricidal Wars 

§1. The Osu War, Aaye and Otun . 

§2. The Egbas and Egbados .... 

§3. Ibadan and I jkye. TheBatgdoWar 

§4. Abeokuta and Abiki .... 

§5. The He Bioku expedition and the end of ElSpo 

§6. Sagaun and Igbo Ork .... 




-Subjugation of the IjesAS and Ekiti's 
Social Reforms 

§1. The Opin War .... 

§2. Subjugation of the Ijesas 

§3. The first Dahomian invasion of Abeokuta 

§4. The Aii War and relief of Otun 

§5, Raids by minor chiefs of Ibadan 

§6. Social reforms .... 








-A Glorious End and a Gory Dawn of 
Two Reigns 

§1. The death of King Atiba . 

§2. Circumstances that led to the Ijaye War 

§3. When Greek meets Greek 

§4. Famine and the sword 



CHAPTER XIX.— Sequels to the Ijaye War 

The Awayfe War ..... 
The Iperu War ..... 

The Ikorodu War 

The second Dahomian invasion of Abeokuta 
The atonement ..... 


CHAPTER XX.— The Close and the Opening Careers of 

Two Heroes 

§1. Ogunmola's administration 

§2. The Igbajo campaign 

§3. The late Ogunmola Basorun of Ibadan 

§4. Ogedemgbe and the fall of Ilega 




CHAPTER XXL— Two Administrations of Opposite Policies 

§1. Orowusi's administration ..... 383 

Ibadan under a Kakanf 6 . 
An unprovoked war. Ado 


The Are's administration 
The Emure War 


CHAPTER XXII.— A New Reign and Evil Prognostication 

§1. The end of Adelu the AlAfin of Ovo . . . 396 

§2. The Wokuti expedition ...... 403 

§3. The new policy ....... 405 

§4. The civil murder of Aijenku the Fghoko . . . 407 

§5. Plot against the Seriki lyap^ ..... 410 

CHAPTER XXIII. — The Commencement of the 16 Years' War 

§1. The Bokofi expedition ...... 413 

§2. The first act of war ...... 414 

§3. Insurrection against the Ar§ and the death of Seriki lyapo 417 

§4. Further raiding expedition on ggba farms . . . 420 

§5. The revolt of the Ekiti tribes 423 

CHAPTER XXIV.— Conflicts in the North 

§1. The celebrated battle of Ikirun or the Jalumi War 

§2. The results of the Jalumi War .... 

§3. The Ekiti parapos ...... 

§4. The beginning of the actual conflict . 

§5. The Ar§ to the front 






CHAPTER XXV. — Ibadan at its Extremity 

§1. Home defences ...... 450 

§2. Closure of roads and the results .... 452 

§3. Distressing episodes ....... 454 

§4. New developments, clouds and sunshine . . . 457 

CHAPTER XXVI.— Failures at Reconciliation 

§1. The Alafin's efforts for peace . . . . . 462 

§2. The Alafin's messenger ...... 464 

§3. The Governor's delegates ..... 467 

§4. The lion at bay 473 

CHAPTER XXVn.— A Rift in the Cloud 

§1. A turning point ....... 479 

§2. Rambling talks of peace ...... 480 

§3. Desperate movements ...... 490 

CHAPTER XXVIII.— The Rev. J. B. Wood and the 

§1. The visits of the Rev. J. B. Wood to the camps . . 494 

§2. The death of Latosisa the A.O.K 500 

§3. The vicissitudes of war . . . . . . 503 

CHAPTER XXIX.— The Intervention of the British 


§1. Measures by Governor Moloney . . . . 508 

§2. The Ilgrins and peace proposals . .... 515 
§3. The messengers and preliminary arrangements . .521 

§4. The treaty of peace 527 

§5. The reception of the treaty by the Kings and Chiefs . 532 

CHAPTER XXX.— Dispersal of the Combatants by Special 


§1. Special Commissioners sent up .... 53^ 

§2. The Commissioners at Kiriji ..... 543 

§3. The Proclamation of Peace and firing of the camps . 547 

§4. The Commissioners at Modakeke. Failure . . 552 

CHAPTER XXXI.— Disturbance in every part of the 


§1. Ilorin intrigues and the fall of Of a . . . • 5^1 

§2. Revolutionary movements at Ijebu .... 5^7 

§3. " A mild treaty " 57^ 

§4. The exploits of Esan and the controversy thereupon . 576 




-Abortive Measures to Terminate the 

§1. The mission of Alvan Millson 

§2. Subsidiary efforts of the Rev. S. Johnson . 

§3. The AlAfin's diplomacy 

§4. Correspondence and a treaty 

§5. The AlAfin's measures for peace and the issues 

§6. The Ilorins at Ilobu .... 

§7. The conduct of the chiefs at Ikirun . 

CHAPTER XXXIII.— The Dark before the Dawn 

§1. Liberation of the Egbados 

§2. Troubles at Ijebu .... 

§3. Strained relations with the Ibadans . 

§4. Death of Aliku the Emir of Ilorin 

§5. Ijebu excesses and infatuation 

§6. Causes that led to the Ijebu War 

§7. Further causes that led to the Ij ebu War 

§8. The Ijebu campaign 

§9. Effecte of the Campeiign . 

CHAPTER XXXIV.— The End -of the War 

§1. Governor Carter s progress up country 

§2. The return home of the Ibadans 

§3. The return of Governor Carter to Lagos 

§4. Local opinions about the war 

§5. Constitution of the Ibadan Town Council 

CHAPTER XXXV.— The Establishment of the British 
Protectorate. The Sequel 

Abeokuta 643 


Ibadan . 


The Ekitis 

If e and Modakeke 



Treaties and Agreements 

§1. Abeokuta 

§2. Oyo 

§3. Ibadan (an agreement) 

§4. Egba (boundaries) . 

§5. Abeokuta (railway) 

§6. Ibadan (railway) 


Appendix A — [continued) 

§7. Ijs§a (human sacrifices) ...... 663 

§8. Ekiti „ „ 664 

§9. If§ „ „ ....... 665 

§10. Between England and France for the West Coast . 666 

§11. Porto Novo . . , . . . . . . 667 

§12. Proclamation ........ 668 


§1. Yoruba Kings, Basoruns, etc. ..... 669 

§2. Ibadan chief rulers ....... 670 

§3. Ab§okuta leading chiefs ...... 670 

§4. Emirs of Ilorin ....... 671 

Index 673 

Map of the Yoruba Country ..... at en<i 


The Yoruba country lies to the immediate West of the River 
Niger (below the confluence) and South of the Quorra {i.e., the 
Western branch of the same River above the confluence), having 
Dahomey on the West, and the Bight of Benin to the South. It 
is roughly speaking between latitude 6° and 9° North, and longi- 
tude 2° 30' and 6° 30' East. 

The country was probably first known to Europe from the 
North, through the explorers of Northern and Central Africa, for 
in old records the Hausa and Fulani names are used for the country 
and its capital ; thus we see in Webster's Gazetteer " Yarriba," 
West Africa, East of Dahomey, area 70,000 sq. miles, population two 
millions, capital Katunga. These are the Hausa terms for 
Yoruba and for Oyo. 

The entire south of the country is a network of lagoons connect- 
ing the deltas of the great River Niger with that of the Volta, and 
into this lagoon which is belted with a more or less dense mangrove 
swamp, most of the rivers which flow through the country North 
to South pour their waters. 

It will thus be seen that the country is for the most part a table- 
land : it has been compared to half of a pie dish turned upside 
down. Rising from the coast in the South gradually to a height 
of some 5-600 ft. in more or less dense forest, into a plain diversified 
by a few mountain ranges, continuing its gentle rise in some parts 
to about 1,000 ft. above sea level, it then slopes down again to the 
banks of the Niger, which encloses it in the North and East. 

In a valuable letter by the Rev. S. A. Crowther (afterwards 
Bishop) to Thomas J. Hutchinson, Esq., Her Britannic Majesty's 
consul for the Bight of Biafra and the Island of Fernando Po, 
published as Appendix A to the book entitled " Impressions of 
Western Africa,"^ we find the following graphic description of 
the country : — 

. . . " This part of the country of which Lagos in the Bight 
of Benin is the seaport, is generally known as the Yoruba country, 
extending from the Bight to within two or three days' journey to 
the banks of the Niger.^ This country comprises many tribes 
governed by their own chiefs and having their own laws. At one 
time they were all tributaries to one Sovereign, the King of Yoruba, 
including Benin on the East, and Dahomey on the West, but are 
now independent. 

' Longmans, Green & Co., 1858. 
"^ i.e. At the time of writing. — Ed. 


The principal tribes into which this kingdom is divided are as 
follows : — 

The Egbados : This division includes Otta and Lagos near the 
sea coast, forming a belt of country on the banks of the lagoon in 
the forest, to Ketu on the border of Dahomey on the West ; then 
the Jebu on the East on the border of Benin ; then the Egbas of the 
forest now known as the Egbas of Abeokuta. 

Then comes Yoruba proper northwards in the plain ; Ife, Ijesha, 
Ijamo, EfoH, Ondo, Idoko, Igbomina, and Ado near the banks of 
the Niger, from which a creek or stream a little below Iddah is 
called Do or Iddo River." 

. . . " The chief produce of this country is the red palm oil, 
oil made from the kernel, shea butter from nuts of the shea trees, 
ground nuts, beniseed, and cotton in abundance, and ivory — all 
these are readily procured for European markets. 

. . . The present seat of the King of Yoruba is Ago other- 
wise called Oyo after the name of the old capital visited by Clap- 
perton and Lander. 

A King is acknowledged and his person is held sacred, his wives 
and children are highly respected. Any attempt of violence 
against a King's person or of the Royal family, or any act of 
wantonness with the wives of the King, is punished with death. 
There are no written laws, but such laws and customs that have 
been handed down from their ancestors, especially those respecting 
relative duties, have become established laws. 

The right to the throne is hereditary, but exclusively in the male 
line or the male issue of the King's daughters. 

The Government is absolute, but it has been much modified 
since the kingdom has been divided into many independent states 
by slave wars, into what may be called a limited monarchy ..." 

Physical features. — ^The country presents generally two distinct 
features, the forest and the plain ; the former comprising the 
southern and eastern portions, the latter the northern, central and 
western. Yoruba Proper lies chiefly in the plain, and has a 
small portion of forest land. The country is fairly well watered, 
but the rivers and streams are dependent upon the annual rains ; 
an impassable river in the rains may become but a dry water-course 
in the dry season. 

There are a few high mountains in the north and west, but in 
the east the prevailing aspect is high ranges of mountains from 
which that part of the country derives its name, Ekiti — a mound 
— being covered as it were with Nature's Mound. 

The soil is particularly rich, and most suitable for agriculture, 
in which every man is more or less engaged. The plain is almost 
entirely pasture land. Minerals apparently do not exist to any 
appreciable extent, expect iron ores which the people work them- 
selves, and from which they formerly manufactured all their 
implements of husbandry and war and articles for domestic use. 


Flora. — The forests teem with economic and medicinal plants 
of tropical varieties, as well as timber, of which mahogany, cedar, 
brimstone, counter, and iroko are the principal. 

There are also to be found the Abura, useful for carving purposes, 
ebony, Ata 2i hard wood used for facing carpenters' tools, the Iki, 
a hard wood which when dry is very difficult to work, as it speedily 
blunts edged tools. The Ori, another hard wood useful for making 
piers on the coast, and the Ahayan, a very hard wood, unaffected 
by ordinary fires, dry rot, or termites. 

All these are indigenous, but recently " Indian teak " has been 
introduced, and it flourishes widely, as well as the beef wood tree 
on the coast. 

Although a large variety of fruits can be grown, yet the people 
do not take to horticulture ; what there are grow almost wild, 
very little attention being paid to them. Papaw, bananas of 
several varieties, plantcdn, oranges, pineapples, the Oro, plums 
(3'ellow and black), the rough skin plum, the butt lime, are to be 
found everywhere. Some fruit trees have been introduced, which 
have become indigenous, e.g., the sweet and sour sop, the avocado 
(or alligator) pear, guavas of two kinds, pink apples, rose apple, 
mangoes, the bread truit and bread nut trees, the golden plum, 
etc. All these are cultivated, but not widely. 

Vegetables, of which there are several kinds, are largely culti- 
vated. Yam, koko, cassada, sweet potatoes, are the principal 
" roots " used as diet, also beans (white and brown), small and 
large, and the ground nut are largely grown for food. The guinea 
corn grows in the north, and maize in the south. The calabash 
gourd and the Egusi from the seeds of which Egusi oil is pressed, 
grow everywhere. 

Fauna. — ^Big game abound, especially in the north, where the 
lion is not far to seek, also the elephant, buffalo, leopard, wolf, 
foxes, jackals, monkeys of various species, deer, porcupine, etc. 
The hippopotamus is found in large rivers, and alligators in the 
swamps and lagoons in the south. 

The usual domestic animals and poultry are carefully reared. 

Of birds, we have the wild and tame parrots, green pigeons, stork, 
crown birds, and others of the tropical feathered tribe. 

The country was at one time very prosperous, and powerful, 
but there is probably no other country on this earth more torn and 
wasted by internal dissensions, tribal jealousies, and fratricidal 
feuds, a state of things which unhappily continues up to the present 

When the central authority which was once all-powerful and far 
too despotic grew weak by driving the powerful chiefs into rebellion 
and internecine wars, the entire kingdom became broken up into 
petty states and independent factions as we now know them. 

As far as it is possible for one race to be characteristically like 
another, from which it differs in every physical aspect, the Yorubas 


— it has been noted — are not unlike the English in many of their 
traits and characteristics. It would appear that what the one is 
among the whites the other is among the blacks. Love of inde- 
pendence, a feeling of superiority over all others, a keen commercial 
spirit, and of indefatigable enterprise, that quality of being never 
able to admit or consent to a defeat as finally settling a question 
upon which their mind is bent, are some of those qualities peculiar 
to them, and no matter under what circumstances they are placed, 
Yorubas will display them. We have even learnt that those of 
them who had the misfortune of being carried away to foreign 
climes so displayed these characteristics there, and assumed such 
airs of superiority and leadership over the men of their race they 
met there, in such a matter of fact way that the attention of their 
masters was perforce drawn to this type of new arrivals ! And 
from them they selected overseers. These traits will be clearly 
discerned in the narratives given in this history. But apart from 
the general, each of the leading tribes has special characteristics 
of its own ; thus dogged perseverance and determination character- 
ise the Ijebus, love of ease and a quickness to adapt new ideas the 
Egbas, the Ijesas and Ekitis are possessed of a marvellous amount 
of physical strength, remarkable docility and simplicity of manners, 
and love of home. 

Among the various families of Yorubas Proper, the Ibarapas 
are laborious farmers, the Ibolos are rather docile and weak in 
comparison with others, but the Epos are hardy, brave, and rather 
turbulent ; whilst the Oyos of the Metropolitan province are 
remarkably shrewd, intelligent, very diplomatic, cautious almost 
to timidity, provokingly conservative, and withal very masterful. 

The whole people are imbued with a deep religious spirit, 
reverential in manners, showing deference to superiors and respect 
to age, where they have not been corrupted by foreign intercourse ; 
ingrained politeness is part and parcel of their nature. 

The early history of the Yoruba country is almost exclusively 
that of the Oyo division, the others being then too small and too 
insignificant to be of any import ; but in later years this state of 
things has been somewhat reversed, the centre of interest and sphere 
of importance having moved southwards, especially since the 
arrival of Europeans on the coast. 

Such is the country, and such are the people whose history, 
religion, social polity, manners and customs, etc., are briefly given 
in the following pages. 


The Yoruba language has been classed among the unwritten 
African languages. The earliest attempt to reduce this language 
into writing was in the early forties of the last century, when the 
Church Missionary Society, with the immortal Rev. Henry Venn 
as Secretary, organized a mission to the Yoruba country under 
the leadership of one of their agents, the Rev. Henry Townsend,. 
an English Clergyman then at work at Sierra Leone, and the 
Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first African Clergyman of the 
C.M.S., also at work in the same place. 

After several fruitless efforts had been made either to invent 
new characters, or adapt the Arabic, which was already known to 
Moslem Yorubas, the Roman character was naturally adopted, not 
only because it is the one best acquainted with, but also because it 
would obviate the difficulties that must necessarily arise if 
missionaries were first to learn strange characters before they could 
undertake scholastic and evangehstic work. With this as basis, 
specizd adaptation had to be made for pronouncing some 
words not to be found in the English or any other European 

The system, or rather want of system, existing among various 
missionary bodies in Africa and elsewhere emphasized the need of 
a fixed system of orthography. It was evidently essential for the 
various bodies to agree upon certain rules for reducing iUiterate 
languages into writing in Roman characters, not only because this 
would facilitate co-operation, but also because it would render 
books much cheaper than when separate founts of type must needs 
be cast for every separate system (scientific or otherwise) that each 
body may choose to adapt for one and the same purpose. 

In this effort, the Committee of the C.M.S. were ably assisted 
by certain philological doctors, as Professor Lee of Cambridge, 
Mr. Norris of London, and notably by Professor Lepsius of BerUn, 
to whom was entrusted the task of establishing a complete form 
of alphabetic system to which all hitherto unwritten languages 
could be adapted. 

The following remarks are largely derived from the second edition 
of Prof. Lepsius' work. 

The Professor consulted earher efforts that had been made in 
India and elsewhere to transliterate foreign (Eastern) characters 
into the Roman, and out of the chaos then existing he estabUshed 


on a firm scientific basis the Standard Alphabet in which the 
Yoruba language is now written. This was adopted by the 
C.M.S. in 1856. By this system therefore former translations had 
to be transliterated under certain fixed rules. 

The number of letters in the Standard Alphabet is necessarily 
very large, as it was designed to meet the requirements of all 
nations ; but with diacritic marks on cognate sounds and accents, 
and the introduction of three characters from the Greek, the 
Roman characters furnish all that is necessary from which every 
unwritten language can draw. 

It is very unfortunate indeed that the system has not been 
faithfully followed by all, for reasons we regard as inadequate and 
inconclusive. This has provoked the caustic remark of the distin- 
guished philologist. Dr. R. N. Cust, that ..." no class of man- 
kind is so narrowminded and opinionated as the missionary except 
the linguist." For even in the Yoruba which professed to have 
adopted Lepsius' Standard, certain particulars (as we shall see) 
have been departed from, by no means for the better. Keen was 
the controversy on these points between the English and German 
missionaries of the Yoruba Mission in its early days. In the 
following' pages the style commonly used in the familiar Yoruba 
translations is departed from in some important particulars, as 
they present some peculiar defects which ought to be rectified. 
We shall endeavour to follow Professor Lepsius' Standard Alphabet 
as closely as possible. 

The Professor himself has conceded that shades of sound can 
be adapted therefrom to meet special requirements without depart- 
ing from the principles laid down. Says he in his second edition: 
" The exposition of the scientific and practical principles 
according to which a suitable alphabet for universal adoption in 
foreign languages might be constructed has (with few exceptions 
above mentioned) remained unaltered. These rules are founded 
in the nature of the subject, and therefore though they may admit 
of certain carefully hmited exceptions, they can undergo no change 
in themselves : they serve as a defence against arbitrary proposals 
which do not depend upon universal laws ; they will explain and 
recommend the application which has been made of them already 
to a series of languages and will serve as a guide in their application 
to new ones. 

"But we have not concealed from the very beginning that it 
is not in every person's power to apprehend with physiological 
and hnguistic accuracy the sounds in a foreign language or even 
those of his own, so as to apply with some degree of certainty the 
principles of our alphabet to a new system of sounds containing 


its own peculiarities. A few only of our most distinguished 
grammarians are possessed of a penetrating insight into the living 
organisms of sounds in those very languages they have discussed ; 
much less can it be expected of missionaries, who are often obliged 
without previous preparation to address themselves to the reduction 
and representation of a foreign language, that everything which 
belongs to a correct adjudication of particular sounds (frequently 
apprehended only with great difficulty even by the ear) or to 
their connection with one another and with other systems of 
sounds, should present itself spontaneously to their minds." 

Certain rules of transcription are imperative for a correct 
scientific method of procedure. Whatever may have been the 
difficulties encountered in the ancient written languages, so far as 
the Yoruba and other unwritten languages are concerned, the 
field hes clear. 

The Enghsh mode of pronouncing the vowels had to be rejected 
in favour of the Italian or continental mode. 

The following rules or principles have been laid down : — 

1. The power of each letter as representing certain sounds as 
handed down from antiquity should be retained. 

2. The orthography of any language should never use (a) the 
same letter for different sounds, nor (b) different letters for the 
same sound. 

In violation of (a) note the force of the letter g in the Enghsh 
words give, gin ; of a in man, name, what ; of ea in treat, tread ; 
of ei in weight, height ; of the consonants ch in archbishop, arch- 
angel ; of augh in slaughter, laughter ; also the sound of ch in 
chamber, champagne, chameleon where the same letters are used 
for different sounds. 

In violation of (b) note the last syllables in the words atten/fow, 
omission, fsLshion, where different letters are used for the same 

3. Every simple sound is to be represented by a single sign. 
This is violated by writing sh to represent the " rushing sound " 
of s. This, as we shall see below, is quite unnecessary in the 
Yoruba language. Here we find an application of the principle 
that where a new sound is not found in the Roman alphabetic 
system a diacritical mark on the nearest graphic sign should be 
used. A diacritical mark therefore over s will more fitly represent 
the English sound of sh. ^ This is also in accordance with the 
sin and shin in the Hebrew and Arabic, where the difference 

1 Publishers' Note. It must be noted, however, that in printing 
this work s has been used throughout to represent the sh sound. 


between the soft and the rushing sound is indicated by diacritical 
points, e.g., 

Heb. to tD Arab. - ^ 

Again the letter A is a sign of aspiration (as the spiritus asper 
in the Greek) as in it, hit ; at, hat ; owl, howl, etc. It would 
therefore be unscientific to accord it a new meaning altogether 
by such a use of it in violation of rule i. 

Apart from this is the fact that the letter s with a diacritical 
mark over it has been employed about twenty years previously 
by oriental scholars transcribing Indian letters into the Roman. 

4. Explosive letters are not to be used to express fricative 
sounds and vice versa, e.g., the use oi ph as f where p is clearly 
an explosive letter. 

5. The last rule is that a long vowel should never be represented 
by doubling the short. This method seems to have found favour 
with some transcribers, there being no fixed system of transcription. 


In a purely scientific alphabetic system, it would seem more 
correct that the alphabets be arranged according to the organ 
most concerned in the pronunciation of the letters, e.g., all sounds 
proceed from the fauces, and are modified either at the throat, 
by the teeth, or by the lips ; hence they may be classified as 
guttural, dental, or labial. But nothing is gained by altering 
the order which came down to us from remote antiquity as the 
Romans received it from the Greek, and these from the 
Phoenicians, etc. 

The Vowels. 

The vowels in Yoruba may 
be built upon the three funda- 
mental vowels, a, i, u, with the 
two subsidiary ones, e formed 
by the coalescence of the first 
two a and i, and o by the coal- 
escence of a and u from which 

we have a, e, i, o and u. These are the recognised principal 
vowels and are pronounced after the Italian method (ah, 
aye, ee, o, 00), but whereas in the Enghsh language the 
short soimd of e is written eh and that of o as aw. these sounds, 
according to the standard system in accordance with rule 3, are 
represented by a dot or dash under the cognate sounds, hence we 


have e and o. A complete representation of the vowels in Yoruba 
therefore is as follows : — a, e, e, i, o, g, a (prpnounced ah, aye, 
eh, ee, oh, aw, oo), the original taking precedence of the diacritic. 
Note that u is not to be pronounced as " you " but as oo in food. 

Nasalization. — The clear vowels are capable of a peculiar 
alteration which is produced by uttering the vowel through the 
nasal canal. There is no consonantal element brought into 
play, but it is an alteration entirely within the vowel. Nasalization 
is very largely used in the Yoruba, and consequently its ortho- 
graphy should be free from any ambiguity. In the Standard Alpha- 
bet the circumflex (~) is placed over the nasalized vowel to indicate 
such a sound. Unfortunately the Yoruba as written by mission- 
aries substitute the letter n for this sign, a cause of some ambiguity 
in writing certain words as Akano, Akinola, Morinatu, Obimeko, 
where the letter n stands between two vowels, and is liable to be 
pronounced with the latter, e.g., A-ka-no, A-ld-no-la, MQ-ri-na-tu, 
0-bu-ne-ko ; but following the Standard Alphabet, the words 
should be written Akao, Obueko, just as the Portuguese 
names are written Semao, Adao, JoSo, etc. Indeed certain 
sections of the Yoruba tribes that use nasalization very 
sparingly do pronounce these words as written without any sign 
of nasalization. The n therefore is not only unnecessary but it 
is also misleading. 

In the following pages, the Standard System will be adhered to, 
where such ambiguities are liable to occur : but for the sake of 
simplicity and to avoid the unnecessary use of diacritical marks, 
n as a nasal sign may be used where it cannot cause any ambiguity, 


1. When it precedes a consonant as nje, ndao, nk6. 

2. When it closes a word, as Awon, Basorun, Ibadan, Iseyin. 
As nasahzation is said to be caused by the dropping of a nasal 

consonant, such a Umited use of « as a nasal soimd may be justified. 
No pure, uneducated Yoruba man can pronounce a word ending 
in a consonant, he will instinctively add an i or u to it. There is 
therefore no closed syllable in Yoruba, n at the end of a word is 
purely nasal. 

The System of Consonants 

There are sixteen distinct consonantal sounds in the Yoruba 
language, each having the same force and power as in the English 
alphabet ; they are : b, d, f, g, h, j, k, 1, m, n, p, r, s, t, w, y. 
No consonants are used to represent a vowel by perverting them 
from their legitimate consonantal sounds as h, w, and y are some- 
times used in English. 


Besides the above, there are two other sounds not represented 
in the Roman or in any other European system ; they are ex- 
plosive sounds peculiar to the Yoruba and alhed tribes formed by 
the lip and jaw, viz., gb and kp. They are regarded as guttural 
modifications of b and p, and as they appear to result from a 
combination of two organs concerned in speech, but the com- 
ponent parts of which are so intimately connected they are rightly 
represented by two letters, though not contravening rule 3. 

As to kp, since usage makes it evident that the Yorubas never 
pronounce the letter p but as kp, it is therefore not considered 
necessary to include kp in the Yoruba alphabet as is done in the 
Ibo ; the simple p does perform its duty satisfactorily. 

Here we find a fit application of Professor Lepsius' remarks 
that " The general alphabet, when applied to particular languages, 
must be capable of simplification as well as of enlargement. All 
particular diacritical marks are unnecessary in those languages 
where none of the bases have a double value ; we then write the 
simple base without a diacritical mark. Where two sounds 
belong to the same base, one only of the signs will be wanted. ..." 
This is well exemplified here. We therefore write p and not kp 
in Yoruba. 

The same may be said of the letter s and the sound sh, referred 
to above. The difference is indicated in the Standard Alphabet 
by a diacritical mark, e.g., s, s (for sh). The Yorubas can safely 
dispense with the latter, and for the sake of simplicity this ought 
to have been done, as no difference as to the meaning of a word 
is suggested by the same word being pronounced soft or harsh. 
And more also because in some parts of the country, notably the 
Ekun Osi district (the most northerly), the harsh sound is un- 
pronounceable, whatever may be written ; e.g., shall, shop, will 
be pronounced sail, sop. In the Epo district, on the other hand, 
it is just the reverse ; the harsh sound will be pronounced instead 
of the soft, thus same, son will be pronounced shame, shon. 

But all over the country women and children invariably use 
the softer sound for the same word, which, if thus used by men is 
considered affectations, except in the Ekun Osi district, where the 
purest and most elegant Yoruba is spoken. 

S (for sh) therefore might have been dropped from the Yoruba 
alphabet with no harm resulting ; it is, however, retained because 
over a great part of the country a distinction is made between 
the two sounds ; apart from the fact that it would often be 
required in representing the sounds of some words of foreign origin. 

From the above modifications therefore we have the Yoruba 
alphabet as now used : — 

abdeefggbhijklmnooprsstuwy . 


Accents or Tones 

An accent in the accepted sense of the term denotes the stress 
laid upon a particular syllable, be it the ultimate, penultimate 
or antepenultimate syllable of a word. In Yoruba it is used 
differently. What are called accents, and for which the usual 
symbols are used are really tones, of which there are three : the 
elevated, the middle and the depressed ; for the first and the 
last the acute and the grave accents are used respectively, the 
middle tone in its simplest form requires no accent sign. 

In Yoruba, vowels are of greater importance than consonants, 
and tones than vowels ; hence the peculiarity of this language, 
that musical sounds can be employed to convey a correct idea 
of words in speech. 

Another error into which those responsible for the present mode 
of writing Yoruba have fallen, by departing from the Standard 
System, is the introduction of the circumflex (~) and its indiscrimi- 
nate use as a sign of a so-called long vowel. 

There are really no long or short vowels in Yoruba as under- 
stood in the English language ; what appears to be long is the 
coalescence of two or more vowels with an elision of the inter- 
vening consonants, e.g., Bale is a contraction of Baba-ile, i.e. 
father (or master) of the house. Here the second h is dropped, the 
two a's coalesce, and the i is absorbed in them, being represented 
by a prolongation of the tone. The vowels are therefore simple 
and compound. 

The meaning of a word varies as the tone, e.g., we may say : — 
ba ba, bk, the voice being raised, even or depressed respectively. 
The first ba means to meet, the second ba to he in ambush, and 
the third hk to ahght upon. 

So we may have be, be, b^ : b§ means to split open, be to be 
officious, and b^ to beg. 

Also bu, bu, bu : bu means to abuse, bu to be mouldy, and 
bu to cut open. 

In this way each vowel with each tone accent may be combined 
with each of the consonants to form words of different meanings ; 
or in other words, thus may every consonant be used with each 
of the vowels in turn, forming different words by varying the 

The Use of the Accents 

To this method of using the accents over the vowels Professor 
Lepsius made the strongest objections, as by such a use the accents 
have been diverted from their proper uses to serve another purpose. 


He therefore proposed to place the tone accents to the right-hand 
side of the vowel instead of over it, so as to distinguish a word 
accent from a tone accent, as is done in the Chinese and other 
cognate languages: e.g., word accent would be written ba, bk; 
tone accent, ba , ba\ 

In this proposal the professor agrees with the Rev. T. J. Bowen 
an American Baptist Missionary in his Yoruba Grammar and 
Dictionary published in 1858 by the Smithsonian Institution. 
But Crowther — a Yoruba man — did not in his grammar make any 
such distinction. He thinks the existing accents will do well 
enough, and for the best of reasons, there is no word accent in 
Yoruba, the tone governs everything, and Europeans cannot speak 
without a word accent. 

The language moreover abounds in contractions and elisions, 
a whole syllable may be dropped but the tone remains. This is 
the crux of difficulty with foreigners trying to speak the language, 
and to what extent they are able to overcome this, to that extent 
their Yoruba is said to be perfect. 

Combination of the Accents 

As remarked above, there are no closed syllables in the Yoruba 
language, every syllable must end in a vowel and every vowel 
must be one of the three tones represented by the accents. Words 
of three or four syllables are often contracted into two, the 
coalescence of the tones forming the compound vowels. 

The entire scheme of the accents or tones may be thus repre- 
sented: — 

I. Simple vowels with the varied tones. 

a, in which the tone is raised : as ka, to pick ; ba, to meet ; 

la, to lick, 
a, in which the tone is even : as pa, to kill ; ba, to ambush ; 

ta, to kick. 
a, in which the tone is depressed : as rk, to buy ; ki, to count ; 

fa, to draw. 

II. Compound vowels in which a single vowel bears more 

than one tone :— 

A. Compounds of the raised tone, 
a, in which the raised tone is doubled, e.g., A'yan, contracted 

from Arfyan, i.e., cares, worries. 
4-, in which the raised tone is combined with the middle, e.g., 

Ki-nla from Kinila — a form of exclamation. 
& in which the raised tone is combined with the depressed, 

e.g., beni from b^h^ni, so it is. 



B. Compounds of the middle tone. 

a' in which the middle tone is combined with the raised ; e.g. 

A'yan from a-hayan, a cockroach ; O'ri from Oriri, a tomb, 
a" in which the middle tone is combined with itself, e.g., Ta'ni 

from Ta-ha-ni — who is it ? 
a' in which the middle tone is combined with the depressed, 

e.g., E "ru from eriru, spice ; kere from keh^rg, a screen. 

C Compounds of the depressed tone. 
k' in which the depressed tone is combined with the raised, 

e.g., a'nu from cini-inu, mercy ; 6'to from 6tit6, truth. 
k- in which the depressed tone is combined with the middle, 

e.g., ko"'^^ from kdriko, a wolf. 
i' in which the depressed tone is combined with itself, e.g., 

Ori contracted from Oriri, black plum. 

In this way words of four or five syllables may, by elision and 
absorption, be contracted into two or three ; e.g., «ifin from 
aw6fin, the palace ; hence Alafin from Ani-k-w^-fin, Lord of the 
royal palace. 

0-oni fromOw6ni, which is itself a contraction of Omo oliiw^ni, 
son of a sacrificial victim. 

The consonants may be dropped, the vowels absorbed, but the 
tones are always preserved ; the first and last syllables only are 
essential, the voice can gUde over all the intervening tones for 
the sake of shortness. 

This is at once the chief characteristic and — to foreigners — the 
main difficulty of the Yoruba language. In order to avoid such 
complicated tone accents it would be preferable to write out the 
words in full, although the contracted form may be used in 
speaking or reading, e.g., otito for 6'to ; korik6 for k6"'"'' 

Words similar in form, distinguished only by their tones. 
Words of two syllables : — 


. the arm 


. . fire, louse 


. a prodigal 


. . flogging 


. a scar 


. . a tattoo mark 


. a riddle 


. . the eagle 


. something ground 


. . the seat 


• going 


. . bunch of fruit 


. a dish 


. . a town 


. a crash 


. . a drum 


. . a fishing net 


. . a gimlet 


. a guinea-fowl 


. . a secret 



Agba . . a rope lya 

Agba . . an elder lya 

Agba . . a cannon lya 

A'yan . . anxiety, care Ik6 

A'yan . . a cockroach Ik6 

A'yan . . a hardwood Ikd 

Baba . . father Ori 

Baba (adv.) quite full Ori 

Bkbk . . guinea corn 6ri 

Epo . . palm oil 0p6 

Epo . . bark Op6 

Ep6 . . weeds Opd 

E'ri . . corn chaff Oko 

E 'ri . . dirt Okg 

Eri (for Ori) the head 6k6 

Words of three syllables similarly 

Apata . . a rock korfko 

Apata . . a shield k6rik6 

Apatk . . a butcher 

a mother 
a separation 
a cough 

a state messenger 
a hook or hanging 
the head 
shea butter 
black plum 
a post 
a widow 
to be busy 
a husband 
a hoe 
a spear 
distinguished : — 

Words of four syllables. 

Koldkdlo . . stealthily 

Kolgkolo . . circuitously 

K^16kolo . . muddy, miry 

K616k^l6 . . the fox 


The efforts we have seen made to produce a Yoruba Grammar on 
the exact lines of an EngHsh or Latin Grammar represent in our 
opinion an honest labour, highly commendable indeed it may be, 
but totally in the wrong direction, and little calculated to elucidate 
the genius of the language. On the contrary, they go a long way 
to obscure it. 

The Yoruba belongs to the agglutinated order of speech, not to 
the inflectional. When therefore particles are used to form cases, 
etc., it is mere pedantry to talk of declensions. 

It is a notorious fact that educated Yorubas find it much easier 
to read an Enghsh book than a Yoruba production — which until 
recently are mostly translations. With an effort they may plod 
through it, but they do not enjoy reading it, and sometimes do 
not even understand it. The main reasons for this are : — 

1. The orthography of the language is still very defective. 

2. The style in which the books are written. This may simply 
be described as English ideas in Yoruba words : the result is often 
obscurity and confusion of thought. 

In the " Church Missionary Intelligencer " for March, 1880, a 
missionary to Japan, who had experienced a similar difificulty, 
wrote thus : — 

" There is great danger, in all use of this language, of thinking 
that when we have rendered various English words into Japanese 
we have of necessity expressed the thoughts which the English 
words convey. Language may correspond to language, but the 
thoughts to which the language is the vehicle may be as distant 
as the poles. Our language must be idiomatic or the natives will 
fail to see the points on which we are endeavouring to lay so much 

The writer has on several occasions- read portions of Yoruba 
translations to intelligent but purely uneducated Yoruba men. 
They would show that they comprehended (not without an effort) 
what was read to them by putting pertinent questions, but then 
they would add, " We can understand what you mean to say, but 
what you read there is not Yoruba ; it may be hook language 
(£de I we)." The rock of stumbling is the desire of translators to 
reproduce every word and particle of the English in its exact 
equivalent in Yoruba, regardless of idiom, and thereby obscuring 
the sense of the latter. 


In taking up a Yoruba book one is forcibly struck by the 
difference in style between quotations of pure Yoruba stories, 
phrases, or proverbs, and the notes and observations of the writer. 
The former runs smooth and clear, the latter appears stiff and 
obscure, because the writer, with his knowledge of the English 
grammar and language, wrote English ideas and idioms in Yoruba 
words, illustrating what is said above. 

When such systems are employed in writing a Yoruba Grammar, 
such a grammar may be usefiil in teaching English to Yoruba 
boys, but that is not a Yoruba grammar. 

We deem these observations necessary because in the following 
pages we shall have occasion to render Yoruba words into English 
and vice versa ; a very literal translation will not be adhered to 
when, by so doing, the sense and force of the language will be 
obscured and weakened. 

The Formation of Words 

The formation of words in Yoruba appears to be a very simple 
process ; any consonant with a vowel attached will form a word 
(or three words, according to the variation of the tone or accent). 
That word will probably be a verb ; it will certainly possess the 
form of one, either current or obsolete. This word will, moreover, 
be the root of a whole class of words. By prefixing a vowel to it 
a noun may be formed ; with other prefixes also some other 
words may be formed from the same root, e.g., da to make, gda, 
a creature ; from which we have eleda, creator. Lk, to spUt ; 
ilk, a cut ; elk, halves of a whole ; kla, a boundary. Rii, to carry ; 
eru, a load ; alarij, a carrier ; elerii, owner of a load. Fe, to 
love ; Ife, love ; Ifeni, brotherly love, charity. 

Thus verbs are mostly monosyllables, formed by one consonant 
and a vowel, and nouns disyllables in which the first syllable is 
a vowel, and the second a verbal root. The penultimate vowel is 
sometimes strengthened by a consonant. 

Adjectives are mostly formed from nouns (or as nouns) by pre- 
fixing the consonant of the verbal root ; e.g., dida, made or created ; 
hlk, fissured ; so also from m6, to know ; im^, knowledge, mim^, 

Adverbs are generally dupUcation of the adjective, e.g., didun, 
sweet ; didun-didun, very sweet ; dara, good ; dara-dara, very 

What is here called a verbal root may be an obsolete word or 
one not generally in use, but other words can be formed from it 
all the same. 

There are some primitive words the origin of whose roots has 


been lost, e.g., omi, water ; ina, fire ; igi, wood ; aso, clothes ; 

With rare exceptions, nouns not beginning with a vowel are 
either of foreign origin, or onomatopoetic : this latter being very 

There are, of course, exceptions to the above rules, but these 
will be found to be the fundamental methods of forming Yoruba 

We cannot within the compass of an introduction, give a 
complete sketch of a Yoruba Grammar, but we may state that 
the Unes laid down in Crowther's Vocabulary of the Yoruba 
language and in Notes on the Formation of Words by the Rt. Rev. 
O. E. Vidal, the first Bishop of Sierra Leone, if properly developed 
and fully worked out, will prove both very useful and instructive. 

The Parts of Speech 

There are eight parts of speech. They are as in the English 
Grammar, the " Article " being excepted. 

The Yoruba language has no article, but when definiteness is 
required the numeral kan (contracted from Okan, one) is used for 
a or an, and the demonstrative na or ni (that, the said one) is 
used for the definite article the. 

The use of the numeral one in place of the article is not unknown 
even in English. " The numeral one is an indefinite demonstrative 
when used as the article an " — Mason, 

The word kan therefore cannot be correctly called an article 
simply because it is made to do duty for it. 

In Yoruba books translated from the Enghsh, where the 
translator endeavours to render every word and particle into its 
Yoruba equivalent, we often find these particles used where a 
pure Yoruba, speaking, would not use an article. Hence the 
Yoruba of translations often sounds rather quaint. 

Literal translations regardless of differences of idiom, often 
result in ambiguity or nonsense. 

In the British colonies of Sierra Leone and Lagos, where the 
Yoruba element predominates, and where the English language is 
often heard spoken with local accents and local idioms, the articles 
are frequently left out where an Englishman would use them, 
e.g., I see snake, for I saw a snake. Water full, for the river is full. 
Here the local English sounds rather quaint, because the speaker 
simply expresses his Yoruba ideas in EngUsh words without the 
article. Again, we may say in Yoruba, O joko lori aga " (He is 
sitting on a chair) " nmu koko taba " (he is smoking a pipe) 
No one would ever think of adding the particle kan after aga or 


koko taha by way of expressing the article a. So also we may say 
" Mo pade Yesufu ni Odo Osun " (I met Joseph at the River 
Osun), or " Mo iilo sf gja " (I am going to the market). No one 
would use the particle nd after Osun or oja to indicate the article 
the as its English equivalent. But we can say " Okonrin na ti de " 
(the man is come). " Mo pade Okonrin na " (I met the man). 
" Omode kan nduro de g " (a child is waiting for you). " Mo pa 
ejo kan " (I have killed a snake). In which cases definiteness is 
required and consequently the particles representing the articles 
a, an and the are used. 

These examples are sufficient to show that the articles do not 
exist in the Yoruba language, but where definiteness is required, 
equivalents can be found. 

We deem these illustrations necessary as in books on Yoruba 
Grammar the " article " forms one of the Parts of Speech. 


Nouns generally in their simplest form are formed by prefixing 
a vowel to a verbal root ; as b§, to shear ; abe, razor ; de, to cover 
(the head) ; ade, crown ; da, to cease ; oda, drought ; s^, to 
offend ; ese, sin. So also the verbals alo, going ; abg, coming from, 
Ig, to go ; and bg, to come. 

But the prefixes have certain peculiarities of their own. Thus : 
a prefixed indicates an agent, one who does a thing, e.g., ke, to cut ; 
ake, an axe — an agent for cutting wood. Da to break ; ida, 
a cutlass ; yun, to file, ayun, a file or a saw. 

o or 0, the same as a but restricted in their use, e.g., lu, to bore ,* 
olu, a gimlet ; 16, to grind ; ol6, a grinder ; we, to swim ; ow^, 
a swimmer ; de, to hunt ; gde, a hunter. 

e prefixed indicates a noun in the concrete, e.g., ru, to carry ; 
eru, a load ; mi; to breathe ; emi, the breath, spirit. 

i prefixed denotes a noun in the abstract, e.g., m6, to know ; 
im5, knowledge ; ri, to see ; iriri, experience. 

The vowels e and u are rarely used. 

Gender. — The Yoruba language being non-inflective, genders 
cannot be distinguished by their terminal syllables, but by pre- 
fixing the words ako, male, and aho, female, to the common term ; 
and sometimes okonrin, a man and obirin, a woman ; e.g., akg- 
esin, a horse, stallion abo-esin, a mare ; akg-malu, a bull ; abo- 
malu, a cow. Omc okonrin, a boy, i.e., a man child ; gmg-birin, 
a girl. 

In one case the masculine seems to be formed from the feminine, 
e.g., lyawo, a bride, gkg-iyawo, a bridegroom. 


XXX vu 


. . father 


. mother 


. man 


. woman 


. husband 


. wife 


a bachelor 


. a spinster 


. a widower 


a widow 

)ruba langu 

age in which different 

female of the objects, e.g. : — 


. . a male captive 


. a female captive 


. a wizard 


. a witch 


a ram 


. a sheep, a ewe 


. a he-goat 


. a goat 


. a cock 


. a hen 

No other distinction of genders is known. 

The words arakgnrin and arabirin, used in translations for brother 
and sister, are purely coined words, not known to the illiterate 
Yoruba man not in touch with missionaries. To him they are 
" book-language " and must be explained. 

The English words brother and sister show th« relations as to 
sex only without indicating the relative age ; but the Yorubas, 
with whom distinction in age and seniority of birth are of primary 
importance, generally use the words egbgn and aburo, i.e., the elder 
and the younger relative, words which show the relative age only, 
without indicating the sex and are equally applicable to uncles, 
aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins however far removed, as well 
as to brothers and sisters. 

Our translators, in their desire to find a word expressing the 
Enghsh idea of sex rather than of age, coined the above words 
" arakonrin," i.e., the male relative ; " arabirin," the female 
relative ; these words have always to be explained to the pure 
but ilUterate Yoruba man. 

But the words egbon okonrin or obirin and aburo gkonrin or 
obirin would be more intelligible to them and should be preferred, 
especially as it is always easy enough to find out the relative ages 
of the said brother or sister. 

We would recommend this to our translators. 

Proper names rarely show any distinction of sex, the great 
majority of them apply equally well to males as to females. See 
under " Yoruba Names," page 79- 

Number. — The plural of nouns cannot be formed from the 
singular, either by addition or by a change of form ; only from the 
context can it be known whether we are speaking of one or more 
than one : but when specification is desired the demonstrative 
pronoun awQti (they) or won (them) is used with the words, e.g., 


Aw on okonrin na ti lo (the men have gone away). The bells are 
ringing — Awon agogo na nlu. Awon, however, is rarely used with 
things without life. When the plural nouns are indefinite, that is 
to say, without the definite article, the demonstrative awon is 
omitted, e.g., Walaha okuta meji — two tables of stone. 

Case. — There are three cases, the nominative, objective and 
possessive, as in the English language ; but in none of them is 
there a change of form. The nominative precedes and the objective 
follows after the transitive verb and preposition as usual, but in 
the case of the possessive, the thing possessed stands before the 
possessor with the particle ti expressed or understood between 
them, e.g., Moses' book, Iwe ti Musa, in which the particle ti 
is expressed. Iru esin, the horse's tail, in which the particle ti 
is understood. But although the particle ti is not expressed, yet 
its middle tone is preserved by lengthening the tone of the final 
vowel of the thing possessed. Thus we may say : Iwe (e) Musa, 
the book of Moses, Iru(u) e§in, the tail of the horse. Qro(g) 
Olorun, the word of God. Agbala(a) Oba, the court of the King. 
Oko Ore(e) mi. My friend's farm. 

The sound of the added tone is sometimes so slight as to be 
almost imperceptible, but it is always there, and is one of those 
fine points which are so difficult for the ear of foreigners to catch, 
and the absence of which marks out their defective accents. 

But when the noun in the possessive case stands alone, the 
particle ti must be expressed, e.g., David's, Ti Dauda. Moses's, 
Ti Musa. It is Joseph's, Ti Yesufu ni. 


Adjectives are generally placed after the nouns they qualify, 
as Esin dudu, a black horse ; omo rere, a good child. They are 
placed before the nouns when some special attribute of that noun 
is to be emphasized, e.g., agidi omo, a stubborn child ; apa omo, 
a slovenly child ; alagbara okonrin, a brave fellow ; akg okuta, 
a very hard stone. 

These are really substantives used attributively. They may 
more correctly be regarded as nouns in the construct state, and 
not pure adjectives, e.g., " a brute of a man " is a more emphatic 
expression than " a brutish man." This view of showing the 
identity of a substantive with an adjective is clearly shown by 
Mason : — 

" The adjective was originally identical with the noun which, in 
the infancy of language, named objects by naming some attributes 
by which they were known. 

" In course of time the adjective was developed into a separate 


part of speech; the function of which was to attach itself to the 
noun ; even now it is sometimes difficult to draw the line between 
them, as nouns are sometimes used attributively and adjectives 
pass by various stages into nouns." 

Comparison of Adjectives 

Degrees of comparison cannot be formed from Yoruba adjectives. 
The words ju and juld which are generally used in Yoruba books 
and translations, and even stated in some grammars as forming 
the comparative and superlative degrees, are really adverbs 
signifying a greater or less degree than and as such may give 
a comparative sense only to the adjectives to which they are 
attached. The superlative is really non-existing ; it can only be 
gathered from the context. The wordy« is only used in an elhptical 
sense iox julo when a comparison is being made, and it often appears 
in the form of tmesis ; e.g., He re tobi ju ti emi lo — Your house is 
larger than mine ; where lo is separated from ju by the words ti 
emi, and may be omitted without affecting the sense. When used 
otherwise, i.e., without any idea of comparison, ju is purely an 
adverb signifying too, too much or too little, e.g., ga ju, it is 
too high ; O kere ju, it is too small. But a comparative idea 
can be gathered only from the context, and also whether the 
comparison is between two or many, and it is in that way alone 
a comparative and a superlative degree can be made out. " If 
we say, ' John is taller than all the other boys in the class,' we 
express the same relation as to height between John and the rest 
as if we should say, ' John is the tallest boy in the class.' But in 
the former case John is considered apart from the other boys of 
the class, so that the two objects which we have in mind are John 
and the other boys in the class. When the superlative degree is 
used John is considered as one of the group of boys compared 
with each other." — Mason. 

This latter sense is what cannot be expressed in Yoruba and 
therefore the language cannot be said to possess a superlative 
degree. The superlative idea can only be gathered from the context. 

It would be absurd to thus compare the adjective tall : — 
Positive, ga (tall) comparative, ga ju (too tall) ; superlative, 
ga ju lo (more tall than) which are not adjectives in the compara- 
tive and superlative sense at aU. 

To use words like these : Oga ogo julo, for the Most High ; or, 
Owu mi behe pup6 julo for I am most pleased at it, is to speak 
vile Yoruba. No pure Yoruba man uncontaminated with Enghsh 
ideas would speak in that way at all. 

As the genius of the Yoruba language, the working of the 


Yoruba mind, its ideas and idiosyncracies do not run in an Anglo- 
Saxon channel, it is not to be expected that the mode of expression 
will agree in every particular. Some teachers of the Yoruba 
language often fall into this error in their endeavours to find the 
exact equivalent in both languages. 

The Forms and Uses of Adjectives 

Every adjective has two forms, the attributive and the predica- 
tive, each depending upon the use thereof, e.g. : — 
A high mountain (attributive), Oke giga. 
The mountain is high (predicative), Oke na ga. 

In Yoruba, the attributive is formed from the predicative by 
reduplicating the initial consonant with the vowel i, e.g., strong 
pred., le, attrih., lile ; sweet, pred., dun, attrib., didun ; hot pred, 
gbona, attrih., gbigbona ; good, pred., dara ; attrib., didara, etc. 
Disyllables with the vowel m as a rule undergo no change, e.g., 
tutu, cold ; dudu, black ; funfun, white, etc. (the n being purely 
nasal). Although not in use, the same rule even here may also 
be applied. 


Pronouns are used in the same sense as in EngUsh. They are: 
I Personal, II Relative, and III Adjective ; there is no distinction 
in genders in any of the forms. 

The Personal includes the Reflexive. 

I. Personal Pronouns, 
(a) Nominative Case. 

Singular Plural 

ist Pers. : I Emi, mo (mo, mi) n We Awa, a 

2nd ,, thou Iwo, o, (g) you eyin, e 

3rd „ he, she it On, 6, (6) they Awon, won 

The full forms (sing.) emi, iwg, oii, (plural) awa, eyin, awon, 
are used when emphasis is to be laid on the person, but ordinarily 
the second forms (sing.) mo, o, 6, (plural) a, e, won, are used. 
Those in brackets (mo, mi, o, 6) are mere provincialisms for the 

5J in the ist person is used only with the incomplete and future 
tenses, e.g., iilQ for emi yio lo, or Mo iilo, I am going, 5Jo lo for 
Emi yio lo, I shall go. 

He, when used in an indefinite sense, is eni, as : Eni ti o ba se e. 
He that doeth it. Eni ti o ba wa si ihin. He who comes here. 


(b) Possessive Case. 

Singular Plural 

1st Pers. : Mine Ti emi Ours ti awa 

2nd „ Thine Ti iwg or ti ire yours ti ^yin 

3rd ,, his, hers, its Ti on or ti irg theirs ti awon 

It will be observed that the possessive forms, are simply the 
nominatives with the particle ti (meaning of) prefixed ; so that 
hterally they are of me, of you, of him, etc. In ordinary speech, 
however, the vowel of the particle always suffers elision in the 
singular number, but in the plural it is the initial vowel of the 
pronoun that is elided. Thus we have : — 

Sing. : t'emi, t'iwo or fire, t'ofi or fire 
Plural : ti'wa, ti'yin, ti'wgn. 

The apostrophe mark of elision is generally dispensed with in 
writing, e.g., we write temi, tiwa, tiwon, etc. 

Special notice should be taken of the forms tire and tir^ ; in 
the 2nd and 3rd pers. singular the difference lies only in the tone 
(or accent) ; in the 2nd pers. the tone of the first syllable is de- 
pressed, the second is middle, it is vice versa in the 3rd person. 

(c) Objective Case. 



ist Pers. 

: me mi 

us wa 

2nd „ 


you yin 

3rd .. 

him, her, it a, e, e, i, 0, g, u 

them wgn 

The objective case as may be seen, consists of fragments of 
the nominative. It is really the terminal syllables of the first 
second and third persons, singular and plural. The third person 
singular calls for special rernarks : — 

It consists of the whole of the vowels, but the particular vowel 
made use of in each case is that of the transitive verb which pre- 
cedes the pronoun and governs the case, e.g., pa a (he killed it), 
Mo pe e (I called him), Wgn te e (they bent it), A bo o (we covered 
it), etc. Where the verb ends in a nasal sound the vowel is also 
nasal, e.g., O kan a (he nailed it), A fun u (we gave him), etc. 

The tone of the pronoun in the objective case is influenced by 
that of the verb which governs it ; when that of the verb is raised 
the objective maintains the middle tone, e.g., O 16 g (he twisted 
it). Mo ka a (I picked it) ; and vice versa when that of the verb is 
middle, that of the objective is raised, e.g., O se ^ (he did it), 
O pa a (he killed it), kan mi (it aches me). Again, when the 
tone of the verb is depressed, that of the pronoun is raised, 


e.g., kkn mi (it touched me), Mo k^ a (I counted it), A pe won 
(we called them). 

The Reflexive 

The word tikara, incorporated wih the personal forms, is used 
to indicate the Reflexive. It is placed between the nominative 
and possessive cases, e.g., 

Singular Plural 

1st Pers. : Emi tikara mi Awa tikara wa 

2nd ,, Iwo tikara re Eyin tikara yin 

3rd ,, Ofi tikara r§ Aw on tikara won 

The harsh r is generally softened into / so that instead of tikara 
we say tikala ; but in a flowing speech the / is dropped off altogether 
and the two a's blended and lengthened ; so we often hear 
Emi tik5 mi, Oil tika r^, Awa tika wa. 

II Relative Pronouns 

The Relative pronoun who, whose, whom, which, what, or that 
in Yoruba, is the simplest in any language. It consists solely 
of the particle ti and is used for every number, gender, person or 
case, e.g., I who called thee, Emi ti o pe o. The man whom I 
saw, Okgnrin ti mo ri. The birds which flew, Awgn eiye ti won fo. 

III. Adjective Pronouns 

These are : — (a) Possessive ; (b) Demonstrative ; (c) Distribu- 
tive ; (d) Indefinite ; and (e) Interrogative. 

(a) Possessive : — Singular Plural 

My mi Our wa 

thy re your jan 

his, her, its rfe their won 

Note. — Like adjectives, they come after the nouns they qualify, 
e.g.. My king, gba mi ; your children, awon omo jdn ; their cattle, 
awon eran-osin won. 

(b) Demonstratives : — Singular Plural 

this yi, eyi, eyiyi these wonyi, iwonyi 
that ni, eyini,na those wonni,iwgnni 

Note. — The simple forms yi, ni, wgnyi, wgnni, are used with the 
nouns tbey quahfy, e.g., This man, gkgnrin yi ; that book, iwe ni ; 
these children, awgn gmgde wgnyi ; those houses, ile wgnni. 
But when the nouns are not expressed, the forms with a vowel 
prefixed are used, e.g., This is not good, eyi ko dara ; this very one, 
eyiyi ; these are not ripe, iwgnyi ko pgn ; those are very good, 
i wgnni dara jgjg. Na refers to something spoken of or understood. 



[c) Distributive : — 


olukuluku, enikankan 


enikan, or gbogbo 




ko si enikan 

Note. — The Yoruba use of the distributives is rather idiomatic. 
" Each " is olukuluku, but when used in the sense of " one by one " 
it is enikankan. For " every one " the Yoruba is gbogbo, i.e., 
all, e.g., it touches every one of us. (In Yoruba) It touches all of 
us, Gbogbo wa li o kan. "Either of them," is "one of them." 
Either of us may go, Okan ninu wa le lo. 
(d) Indefinite : — 




. . Gbogbo 
. . eyikeyi 
. . mejeji 




• • 

kan, §nikan 




. . (eni) kan 

One another 
Each other 


ara won 



. . die 

opolgpo, pupQ 
. . pup6, opo 
. . ko si enikain 




die (a few) 


ototg, gbogbo 

The Yoruba language s very defective in distinctive terms 
expressive of the indefinite pronouns. One word must do service 
for different terms in which there is a shade of difference of 
meaning, e.g., 

Gbogbo is used for all, whole. 

PuPq or bpo for many, much, several. 

Enikan for certain, one. 

None is expressed by " there is no one." 

(e) Interrogative : — 

Who ? Tahani ? contracted to tani ? 
Whose ? Titahani ? contracted to titani ? 
Which ? Ewo ? wo ? 
Whom ? Tani ? eniti ? 
What ? Kini ? ' 

Note. — -The n in kini is often converted or rather softened into 
/ in speech. What shall we do ? Kini awa yio se ? is softened 
into Ki r a o se ? 


Verbs are transitives and intransitives. There are no auxiliary 
verbs as known in the EngHsh and other languages ; certain 
particles are used to mark out the moods, tenses and other forms. 


for which auxiliary verbs are used, consequently the verb " to be " 
as an auxiliary is wanting. 

In. the English language there are six auxiliary verbs, viz., 
be, have, shall, will, may, do ; each of them may be used as the 
principal verb, and also as an auxiUary to other verbs when they 
help to form the moods and tenses ; but the particles that are 
used in Yoruba for such purposes are not verbs, and cannot be 
used as such, and therefore cannot be correctly termed auxiUary 
verbs as some compilers of Yoruba grammars have tried to make 
out. For example, the particle ti placed before a verb denotes a 
completed action, e.g., Ajayi ti lo, Ajayi has or had gone. The 
particle jyj'o in the same way points out a future tense, ^.^., Ajayi 
yio lo, Ajayi will go. The nasal n prefixed to any verb shows an 
incomplete action as Ajayi rilo, Aja)^ is going. 

There being no auxiliary verbs as such, the Passive Voice 
cannot be formed in the usual way, the first or third person plural 
of the verb transitive is used for the passive voice, e.g., " A snake is 
killed " will be A pa ejo kan, or Won pa ejo kan. Or if we say 
" The snake was killed by Joseph " the Yoruba will be " A ti owo 
Yesufu pa ejo na, which is literally, " We by the hand of Joseph 
killed the snake," but usually the active transitive is preferred, 
viz., Yesuf u U o pa ejo na, " It is Joseph that killed the snake." 
As was observed above, the majority of Yoruba verbs in their 
simplest form consist of monosyllables — a consonant and a vowel, 
e.g., ka, to pick, kd. to count, rd to buy, lo to go, wa to come, 
sun to sleep, etc. They are non-inflective and do not show any 
distinction in number or person. 

Disyllabic verbs are almost invariably compound words 
resolvable into their component parts ; they may be a verbal 
root compounded with a preposition, a noun or an adverb (some 
roots, however, have become obsolete), e.g., Bawi, to scold, from 
ba, with, and wi, talk. Dahun, to answer, from da, to utter, 
ohun, a voice. Dapo, to mingle, from da, to pour or mix, and 
Pq, together. Sunkun, to weep, from sun, to spring, and ekun, 

Some are transitives, others intransitives. 

The noun or pronoun governed by the transitive verb is in- 
variably placed between the component parts, e.g., Bawi, to scold. 
O ba mi wi, He scolded me. 

Pade, to close. O pa ilekun de. He closed the door 

Here the mi is placed between the ha and the wi. It. is not 
O bawi mi for He scolded me, but ha mi wi. 

So also ilekun is placed between pa and de, not O pade ilekun, 
but pa ilekun de for He closed the door. 


Verbs compounded with a Preposition : — 

Bawi, to scold. O ba mi wi, He scolded me. 

Pade; to shut. Pa ilekun de, Close the door. 

Dimu, to take hold of. Di mi mu, Take hold of me. 

Dasi, to spare. Da won si, Spare them. 

Verbs compounded with an Adverb : — 

Baje, to spoil. Ba inu je, Grieve, " Spoil the mind." 

Dapo, to mingle. Da won po. Mix them together. 

Tuka, to scatter. Tu won ka, Scatter them. 

Daru, to confound. Da won ru, Confound them. 

Pamo, to keep. Pa mi mo, Keep or preserve me. 

In verbs compounded with a noun, the noun always has the 
preposition ni (softened into li) before it, e.g., 

Daju, evident, from da, clear, and oju, the eyes — clear to the 

eyes. da mi I' oju. It is evident to me 
Tiju, to be ashamed, from ti to cover, oju, the eyes — covering 

the eyes. ti mi I' oju. It shames me. 
Dahun, to answer, from da, to utter, ohun, a voice. Da mi 

I'ohun, Answer me. 
Jiya, to suffer, from je, to eat, iyk, punishment, je mi ni iyd, 

He punished me. 
Gbowg, shake hands, from gba, take, owo, hand. gbd mi 

I'owQ, He shook hands with me. 
Ranse, to send a message, from ran, send, ise, a message. Mo 

ran a ni i§e, I have sent him. 

The Intransitive verbs of this class are usually neuter verbs 
compounded with nouns of similar import and therefore do not 
admit of any nouns or pronouns being inserted into their com- 
ponent parts, e.g., 

Sunkun, to cry, from sun, to spring, shed, ekun, tears. 

Sorg, to talk, from so, to utter, org, a word. 

Kunle, to kneel, from kun, to fill. He, the ground. 

P^de, to meet, from pa, to keep, ade, a coming. 

Duro, to stand, Irom da, to keep, iro, upright. 

Moods and Tenses 

In the formation of Moods and Tenses certain particles are 
made use of. They may have been the roots of obsolete verbs, 
but they cannot now be used as verbs but as particles ; we there- 
fore refrain from applying the terms " defective " or " auxiliary 
verbs " to them. Such are the following : — 

Bi, ha or iha, implying if, should, or would, e.g. Bi o ba lo, 
if he should go. Oia iba lo, should he go 


Je or ki, or j ski, implying permission, e.g., Je ki o \q or ki o lo, 

let him go. 
Lb, implying permission. O le lo, he may go. 
Md or Mase, implying prohibition (authoritative). 
Maha, impljdng permission (authoritative), e.g., Maha lo, be going 
Yio, often contracted to o, sign of the future, e.g., Yio lo, he 

will go. Emi o \o, I will go. 
Ati or ni ati, softened into lati, implying an intention, e.g., 

Ati lo, to go, Lati jeun, to eat (intending to). 
N or ng, sign of incomplete action, e.g., Emi filo, I am going. 

Ojo fir6, it is raining. 
Ti, a sign of the past tense, e.g., ti lo, he has gone. 
From these particles the Moods and Tenses are formed. 


The Indicative, Subjunctive, Potential, Imperative, Infinitive 
and the Participal Moods can be well expressed in Yoruba, and 
all but the first can be formed by the use of one or other of the 
above particles. 

The Indicative is the verb in its simplest form, e.g. lo, to go. 
Emi Ig, I went. Ojo sare, Ojo ran. 

The Subjunctive is formed by prefixing the conjunction hi (if) 
before the subject of the verb, with or without the particle 
ha, e.g., Bi emi lo or Bi emi ba Ig, If I were to go. Bi emi ba 
fe Ig, If I wish to go. 

The Potential is formed by adding the particle le before the 
verb, e.g., Emi \h Ig, I may go (lit. I am able to go). 

The Imperative is formed by the permissive sign J§ ki, e.g., 
Jg ki emi Ig, Let me go. [Besides the direct forms Ig (go thou) ; 

The Infinitive is formed by adding the particles ati or lati before 
the verb, e.g., Ati lo, to go. Lati mo, to know. 

The Participle is formed by prefixing the particle ii (or ng) to 
the verb, e.g. nlo, going.; nbQ, coming. 


There are only three tenses in Yoruba, properly speaking, the 
preterite, the incomplete, and the future. 

An action just done is a completed action and is therefore past ; 
one doing is incomplete, consequently what may be considered 
present may be merged in the completed action, and is therefore 
taken as preterite, or in the incomplete, as the sense may require. 

The simple verb is always expressed in the past indefinite or 


preterite tense, e.g., Mo lo, I went ; Mo we, I washed. O rerin, 
he laughed or laughs ; joko, he sat or sits. 

The complete tenses, past or present, are expressed by prefixing 
the particle ti before the preterite, e.g., Mo ti we, I have, or had 
washed. O ti lo, he has or had gone. 

The incomplete tense is formed by prefixing the particle ii (orng) to 
the verb, e.g., Emi nwe, I am washing. Emi iirerin, I am laughing. 

The future tense is formed by placing the particle jyj'o (contracted 
to o) before the verb, e.g., Emi yio we, I shall wash. Emi o lo, 
I shall go. Awa o maha yo. We shall be rejoicing. 

The future complete (or second future) tense is formed by 
adding the particles indicating the future and the complete tenses 
to the verb e.g., Emijyw ti we, I shall have washed. Emi o ti lo, 
I shall have gone. 


Adverbs are used in the same way as in the English, to modify 
or hmit the meaning of a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, 
and are generally placed after the words they qualify, e.g., sorg 
daradara. He spoke well. soro jojg. It is very difficult. After 
an intransitive verb, they come directly after the verb, as sun 
fanfan. He slept soimdly. O sure tete. He ran swiftly. But 
after a transitive verb they come after the noun or pronoun 
in the objective case, e.g.. Mo mo Yesufu daju-daju, I know 
Joseph well. O le won sehin-sehin. He drove them far back. 

Adverbs of manner, quahty and degree are mostly formed by a 
reduplication of the word (especially an adverb or a verb), e.g., 
O sorg daradara. He spoke very well, O duro sinsin. He stood 
firmly. Dajudaju, evidently. Mo feran r^ gidigidi, I love him well. 

Adverbs of time, place and quantity are used in the same way 
as in the EngHsh, and call for no special remarks. We may note, 
however, that in these, words of more than one syllable not 
onomatopoetic in origin are capable of being resolved into their 
elementary parts — usually into a particle (a preposition) and a 
noun, e.g., 

Nigbagbogbo, always, can be resolved into ni (at), igba (time), 
gbogbo (all), i.e., at all times. 

Kigbose, when, can be resolved into ni (at or in), igba (time), 
ti (which), se (it happened), i.e., at the time when it happened, 
i.e., when. 

Nihiyi, here, ni (at), ihin (here), yi (this), at this place. 

Loke, upwards, ni or li (at), oke (the top). 

Nibomiran, elsewhere, ni (at), ihi (place), omiran (another), at 
another place. 


But there is also a use of adverbs peculiar to the Yoruba lan- 
guage, an onomatopoetic idea is often connected with it, and 
consequently it is always formed to suit the word it qualifies, and 
thus intensify the idea conveyed by the word. A form that is 
applicable to one verb or adjective may not be appHcable to 
another, and therefore adverbs of degree or quality cannot be 
enumerated. For instance : 

The adverb gogoro can only apply to height, as o ga g6g6rd, 
It is very high. A reduplication of the word can further intensify 
the idea, O ga gogoro gogoro. It is very, very high. In the same 
way the word gbagada can only apply to something of a huge 
size, and a redupHcation of it, gbagada gbagada, intensifies the 
idea. Also the word repete or rapcita-rapata implies not only a 
large size, but also a massive one, one in which the space covered 
is much more than the height. 

Apart from intensifying the ideas, other quaUties can also be 
expressed by the character of the adverb made use of ; in other 
words, the adverbs often suggest some other ideas inherent in the 
qualities they describe although they cannot be so expressed in 
Enghsh, e.g., we may say, pon fo 6, It is bright red. Here the 
adverb fo 6, besides being aptly applying to what is red, also 
suggests the warmth of the colouring. So also O pon roro. It is 
deep red ; O p6n rokiroki, i.e., It is bright red, almost yellow. 
In the last two examples roro and rokiroki refer simply to the 
depth of the colouring.^ 

One or two more illustrations will develop the above ideas 
fully. In the matter of length, we may say O gim tunu tunu. 
It is very long. This can only apply to a long road, the idea of 
distance being imphed. O gvm gboro-gbgro. It is very long. This 
conveys an idea of a long pole, or a rope, or a serpent or the like. 
So also with respect to height, we may say, O ga.fio fio, It is very 
high. This can only apply to something on the top of a great 
height, or the top of a high object — as a tree, standing on the 
ground. O ga tian-tian, It is very high. This can only apply to 
an object at a great height, not connected with the ground, as a 
bird flying at a great height. 

In all these examples, the adverb very is used to qualify the 
adjectives in English, no other ideas being conveyed ; in this 
respect the Yoruba is more expressive. 


Prepositions are particles placed before nouns or pronouns to 

show their relation to other words in the sentence. 

^ See Vidal's Notes to Crowther's Yoruba Grammar. 


In Yoruba they are mostly monosyllables, e.g., si, ni, fun, de, 
etc., as : O lo si ile. He goes into the house. O wa ni oko. He is 
in the farm. O ko ile fun Baba, He has built a house for the 
father. Duro d^ mi, Wait for me. 

Words of more than one syllable when used as prepositions are 
capable of being resolved into their component parts, e.g., O nbo 
lehin mi, He is coming behind me. Here, the preposition lehin is 
resolvable into li (at) and ehin (the back). O wa leti ile. He is 
near the house ; leti is resolvable into li (at) and eti, the ear, or 
the edge that is within the hearing or at the edge of the house. 

Under Verbs we have already considered those pecuhar forms 
compounded with prepositions. 


Conjunctions are particles which serve to connect words or 
sentences ; they are copulative and disjunctive. 

Ati, and or both. Ati Baba ati omo, Both father and son. The 

initial a may be omitted, e.g., Tiwo tir^ for ati iwo ati ixh 

(you and he). 
On, and or both. O lo t'ofi ti omo. He left both himself and 

child. It may be noted that on is never used to copulate 

pronouns of the ist and 2nd persons. 
Bi, if. Bi o je se omo. If he would be a child. (This is used 

for an obedient child). 
Nitori, because. Nitori t'emi. Because of me. 
Nje, then. Nje o yio lo ? Then will you go ? 

Sugbgn, but. O de ile sugbon ko ba mi. He called but did not 

meet me at home. 
Tabi, or. Emi tabi iwg, I or you. 
Bikose, unless. Bikose pe o juba re, Unless he pays regard to 

Adi. although. Adi o ngbo gbogbo rh, Although he hears it all. 
Amgpe, idiomatic for be it known. 


Interjections are any form of exclamation or ejaculation ex- 
pressing some emotions of the mind. Any words may be used 
for the purpose, but very few convey any meaning apart from 
the tone in which they are expressed. 

Exclamations of surprise : Ye ! O ! pa ! emo ! hepk ! 

Exclamations of disgust : S6 ! Siyo ! 



It is rather curious that tribal peculiarities are marked in some 
forms of exclamations. 

Favourite expressions of Oyos : Ha ! Kinla ! Em ode ! Gbaga- 
dari ! 

Favourite expressions of Egbas and Ijebus : Here or herek^ 1 
heparipk ! payentiwk ! 

The usual exclamation in law courts for " silence " is : Atoto ! 
lit, enough of your noise ! 

Kagbohun ! lit, let us hear the sound of a (single) voice. 

The tone of voice thrown into the exclamation in particular 
marks the expressions of grief, surprise, admiration or contempt. 

We close this portion with the exclamation usually addressed 
to kings — Kabiyesi ! May long life be added ! 


Numerals in Yoruba, although formed on a definite plan, yet 
are more or less compUcated ; the tone (or accent) plays an im- 
portant part in them. 

All numerals refer to some noun (person or thing) expressed or 
understood. They are Cardinal and Ordinal or Serial. . 

The Cardinal has three forms, viz. : (i) simple enumeration ; 
(2) numeral adjectives ; and (3) numismatics. To these may be 
added adverbs of number and of time. 

1. Simple Enumeration 

I . 


22 . 

... Ejilelogun 

2 . 


23 . 

... £talelogun 

3 . 


24 . 

... ferinlelogun 

4 • 

5 • 



25 . 

26 . 

... Edogbgn 
... Jlrindilggbgn 

6 . 


27 • 

... Stadilogbgn 

7 ■ 


28 . 

... Ejidilggbgn 

8 . 


29 . 

... Okandilggbgn 

9 • 

... Esan 

30 . 

... Ogbgn 

10 . 


35 • 

... Arundilogoji 

II . 

... Okanla 

40 . 


12 . 


45 . 

... Arundiladgta 

13 • 


50 . 

... Adgta 

14 . 

... Erinla 

55 . 

... Arundilgggta 

15 • 


60 . 

... Oggta 

16 . 

... £rindilogun 

65 . 

... Arundiladgrin 

17 • 

... fetadilogun 

70 . 

... Adgrin 

18 . 

... ]^jidilogun 

75 . 

... Arundilgggrin 

19 . 

... Okandilogun 

80 . 

... Oggrin 

20 . 


85 . 

... Arundiladgrun 

21 .. 

... Okanlelogun 

90 . 

... Adorun 


Simple Enumeration — Continued. 

95 -. 

... Arundilogorun 

4,000 ... 

.. Egbaji 

100 ... 

... Oggrun 

5,000 ... 

.. Edegbata 

200 ... 

... Igba 

6,000 ... 

.. Egbata 

300 ... 

... Odunrun 

7,000 ... 

.. Edegbarin 

400 ... 

... Irinwo 

8,000 ... 

.. Egbarin 

500 ... 

... Edegbeta 

9,000 ... 

.. Edegbarun 

600 . . . 

... Egbeta 

ro,ooo ... 

.. Egbarun 

700 . . . 

... Edegberin 

20,000 ... 

., Egbawa or 

800 ... 

... Egberin 

Oke kan i.e 

'. one bag (of 

900 ... 

... Edegberun 

cowries) . 

1,000 ... 

... Egberun 

Higher num 

bers as 40,000, 

2,000 ... 

... Egb^wa 

60,000, etc. being so many bags. 

3,000 ... 

... Egbedogun 


Quantitative or 

Numeral Adjectives 



Twenty -nine . 

.. Mgkandilggbgn 



Thirty ... 


Three ... 



.. Marun dilogoji 



Forty ... 





.. Marundiladgta 



Fifty ... 


Seven ... 



. Marundilogota 

Eight ... 

Mej g 


' Ota 




, Marundiladgrin 


Mewa " 


... Adgrin 

Eleven ... 


Seventy- five 

.. Marundilgggrin 

Twelve ... 


Eighty ... 

... Oggrin 




, . Marundiladgrun 


... Merinla 

Ninety ... 


Fifteen ... 




Sixteen ... 


One hundred . 




One hundred an 

d ten ... Adgla 



>> i> i> 

twenty Qggfa 


... Mgkandilogun 

II 1) >> 

thirty Adoje 



II .. II 

forty Ogoje 


... Mekanlelogun 

II II .. 

fifty Adgjo 



>> II II 

sixty Qggjg 




seventy Adgsan 

Twenty -four 



eighty Oggsan 

Twenty -five 





... Merindilggbgn 



... RIetadilggbgn 

Two hundred . 




etc., etc. 

3. Numis 


One cowry 


Three cowries .. 


Two cowries 



E erin 

1 Lit., one money, two monies ; cowry shells being used for money. 



N UMI SM ATics — Continued 

Five cowries ... ... A arun 

Six ,, E eik 

Seven ,, ... ... E eje 

Eight ,, E ejo 

Nine ,, ... ... Eesan 

Ten , Eewa 

Eleven ,, ... ...0-6kanla 

Twelve ,, ... ... E-ejila 

Thirteen ,, ... ... Eetala 

Fourteen ,, ... ... Eerinla 

Fifteen ,, Eedogun 

Sixteen ,, ... Eerindilogun 
Seventeen cowries Egtadilogun 

Eighteen ,, Eejidilogun 

Nineteen ,, Ookandilogun 

Twenty ,, ... Ok6wo 

Twenty-five ,, Eedogbon 

Thirty ,, Ogbonwo 

Forty ,, ... Ogoji 

Fifty ,, ... A-adota 

Sixty ,, ... Qgota 

Seventy ,, A-adorin 

Eighty ,, ... Qgorin 

Ninety ,, A-adgrun 

One hundred ,, ... Ogorun 

no cowries ... ... A-adofa 

120 ,, Qgofa 

130 ,, ... ... A-adoje 

140 ,, ... ... Ogoje 

150 ,, ... ... A-adojo 

160 ,, Qg6jg 

170 ,, ... A-adosan 

180 ,, ... ... Ogosan 

190 ,, ... Ewadinigba 

200 ,, ... ... Igbiwo 

210 ,, ... Ewalerugba 

220 ,, ... Ogunlugba 

230 ,, Ogbonwolerugba 

240 ,, ... - Ojulugba 

250 ,, A-adotalerugba 

260 ,, ... Otalugba 

270 ,, A-adorinlerugba 

280 ,, ... Orinlugba 

290 ,, A-adorunlerugba 

300 ,, ... Odunrun 

400 ,, ... ... Irinwo 

500 cowries . . . E-edegbfeta 


, Egb^ta 


















... Egb^jg 






,, Egbadin-gggrun 


,, Egbkwa 




„ Eg'b^jila 


,, Egb^taladin-gggrun 








... Egbejidilogun- 



... Egbejidinlogun 




... Egbetalelogun- 
























Egbawa (Oke kan) 










,, ... Ok&ndilogun 


,, Egbagun (Oke meji) 



The Ordinal 

The first 

,, second 

„ third 

,, fourth 

„ fifth 

,, sixth 

,, seventh 

,, eighth 

„ ninth 

,, tenth 

,, eleventh 

,, twelfth 

,, thirteenth 

,, fourteenth 

,, fifteenth .., 

,, sixteenth ... 

,, seventeenth 

,, eighteenth 

,, nineteenth 

,, twentieth .. 

,, twenty-first 

,, twenty-fifth 























The thirtieth Qgbon 

,, thirty-fifth Ikarundilogoji 
,, fortieth ... ... Oji 

,, forty-fifth ... Ikarundiladota 

,, fiftieth Adota 

,, fifty-fifth ... Ikarundilogota 
,, sixtieth ... ... Qgota 

,, sixty-fifth Ikarundiladorin 
,, seventieth ... Adorin 

,, seventy-fifth Ikarundilogorin 
,, eightieth ... ... Ogorin 

„ eighty-fifth Ikarundiladorun 
,, ninetieth ... ... Adorun 

,, ninety-fifth Ikarundilggorun 
,, hundredth ... Ogorun 

,, hundred and first... Ikokan- 
From the first to the ninth — 

Ikokanle to Ikokandin — the 

tenths merge into those of simple 


Adverbs of Number 

One by one ... 
Two by two ... 
Three by three 
Four by four 
Five by five . . . 
Six by six 
Seven by seven 
Eight by eight 
Nine by nine 
Ten by ten ... 
Continue to 
numerals up 
nineteen then — 
Twenty by twenty 
Thirty by thirty 
Forty by forty 
Fifty by fifty 





... Meji-meji 




... Mefa-mefa 

... Meje-meje 

... Mejo-mejg 



reduplicate the 

to nineteen by 

" Ogogoji 



Erin me ji 
Erin-m §ta 

Sixty by sixty ... Oggggta 

Seventy by seventy... Aradgrin 
Eighty by eighty ... Oggggrin 
Ninety by ninety ... Aradgrun 
Hundred by hundred Oggggrun 
Thus from one to nineteen the 
numbers are reduplicated, also 
from 21-29 '< 31-39 ; 41-49 J ^iid 
so on, but for 20, 30, 40, 60, 80, 
100 only the reduplication of the 
first two letters takes place, e.g., 
Ogogun, Ogbggbgn ; for 50, 70, 
90, the same occurs only the 
euphonic " r " takes the place of 
" d " e.g., Aradgta for Adgdgta ; 
Aradorun for Adodorun. 

OF Time 

Four times 



. Erin-m erin 
. grin-mefa 


Adverbs of Time — Continued 

Seven times ... 


Seventy times 


Eight .. ... 


Eighty „ 


Nine ,, 


Ninety „ 




Hundred ,, 


The same to nineteen times. 

Thus " Erin " is 

prefixed to all 

Twenty times 


the numerals, but 

the multiples 



of ten take " Igba 

" before them. 

Forty „ 


Note.—' Erin " 

is usually 



softened to ee, e.g., 

^|kan, ^gmeji 



and so forth. 

Analysis of the Numerals 

From one to ten, different terms are used, then for 20, 30, 200 and 
400 ; the rest are multiples and compounds. Thus 11, 12, 13 
and 14 are reckoned as ten plus one, plus two, plus three and 
plus four ; 15 to 20 are reckoned as 20 less five, less four, less 
three, less two, less one, and then 20. 

In the same way we continue 20 and one, to 20 and four, and 
then 30 less five (25), less four, and so on to 30, and so for all 
figures reckoned by tens. 

There is no doubt that the digits form the basis of enumeration 
to a large extent, if not entirely so. Five, ten, twenty, i.e., the 
digits of one hand, of two, and the toes included, and their 
multiples form the different stages of enumeration. 

Beginning from the first multiple of 20 we have ogoji, a contrac- 
tion of ogun meji, i.e. two twenties (40), Ogota, three twenties (60), 
Ogorin, four twenties (80), Ogorun, five twenties (100), and so on 
to ten twenties (200), when the new word Igba is used. 

The intermediate numbers (30 having a distinct terminology), 
50, 70, 90, no, 130 to 190 are reckoned as : 60 less ten (50), 80 
less ten (70), a hundred less ten (90), and so on to 200. 

The figures from 200 to 2,000 are reckoned as multiples of 200 
(400, however, which is 20 X 20, the square of all the digits, has a 
distinct terminology, Irinwo or Erinwo, i.e., the elephant of 
figures — meaning the highest coined word in calculation, the rest 
being multiples). 

Thus we have Egbeta, a contraction of Igba-meta, i.e., three 
two-hundreds (600), Egberin, from Igba-merin, four two-hundreds 
(800), Egberin, five two-hundreds (1,000), and so on to Egbiwa, 
ten two-hundreds (2,000), which in its turn forms the basis of 
still higher calculations. 

The intermediate figmres 6i 300, 500, 700, 900, 1,100 to 1,900 
are reckoned as 100 less the multiple above them, viz., Odunrun, 


contracted from Orun-din-ni-irinwo, i.e., loo less than 400 (300), 
Orun-din-ni-egbeta, 100 less than 600 (500), Orun-din-ni-egberin, 
100 less than 800 (700) ; and so on to 2,000. 

By a system of contraction, ehsion, and euphonic assimilation, 
for which the Yoruba language is characteristic, the long term 
Oriin-din-ni (Egbeta or Egberin and so on) is contracted to Ed^ 
or Od6, e.g., Edegbeta (500), Edegberin (700), Edegberun (900) 
and so on. 

But the multiples of 200 do not end with ten times, although 
that figure is the basis of the higher calculations, it goes on to 
the perfection (or multiple) of the digits, viz. : twenty times (two 
hundred) ; thus we have Egbgk^nla, that is, Igba mokinla, 
II two-hundreds (2,200) ; Egbejila, twelve two-hundreds (2,400), 
and so on to twenty two-hundreds or Egbaji, that is, twice two 
thousand (4,000). 

With this ends the multiples of 200. The intermediate figures 
of 2,300, 2,500, 2,700, 2,900 are reckoned the same way as before, 
viz. : 100 less than the next higher multiple. 

As already mentioned, Egbawa (or Egba), 2,000, forms the basis 
of still higher calculations ; the multiples of Egba are Egbaji, 
two two-thousands (4,000) ; Egbata, three two-thousands (6,000) ; 
Egbarin, four two-thousands (8,000) on to Egbawa, ten two- 
thousands (20,000), which in its turn forms the basis of the highest 

The intermediate figures of 3,000, 5,000, 7,000, 9,000, 11,000 
onwards are reckoned as 1,000 less than the multiple above them. 
The more familiar terms for 3,000 and 5,000, however, are Egbe 
dogun, or fifteen two-hundreds, and Egbedogbon, 25 two-hundreds. 

For those figures beyond 20,000 the contracted forms which are 
generally used are : Okanla (for Egbamgkanla) 11 two-thousands ; 
£jila, Etkla on to Egbagim, i.e., 20 two-thousands, i.e., forty 

Summary. — Thus we see that with numbers that go by tens 
five is used as the intermediate figure — five less than the next 
higher stage. In those by 20, ten is used as the intermediate. 
In those by 200, 100 is used, and in those of 2,000, 1,000 is used. 

The figure that is made use of for calculating indefinite numbers 
is 20,000 Egbawa, and in money calculation especially it is termed 
Oke kan, i.e., one bag (of cowries). Large numbers to an indefinite 
amount are so many " bags " or rather " bags " in so many places. 



Chapter I 

The origin of the Yoruba nation is involved in obscurity. Like 
the early history of most nations the commonly received accounts 
are for the most part purely legendary. The people being un- 
lettered, and the language unwritten all that is known is from 
traditions carefully handed down. 

The National Historians are certain families retained by the 
King at Oyg whose office is hereditary, they also act as the King's 
bards, drummers, and cymbalists ; it is on them we depend as 
far as possible for any reliable information we now possess ; 
but, as may be expected their accounts often vary in several 
important particulars. We can do no more than relate the 
traditions which have been universally accepted. 

The Yorubas are said to have sprung from Lamurudu one of 
the kings of Mecca whose offspring were : — Oduduwa, the ancestor 
of the Yorubas, the Kings of Gogobiri and of the Kukawa, two 
tribes in the Hausa country. It is worthy of remark that these 
two nations, notwithstanding the lapse of time since their separa- 
tion and in spite of the distance from each other of their respective 
localities, still have the same distinctive tribal marks on their 
faces, and Yoruba travellers are free amongst them and vice versa 
each recognising each other as of one blood. 

At what period of time Lamurudu reigned is unknown but 
from the accounts given of the revolution among his descendants 
and their dispersion, it appears to have been a considerable time 
after Mahomet. 

We give the accounts as they are related : — 

The Crown Prince Oduduwa relapsed into idolatry during his 
father's reign, and as he was possessed of great influence, he drew 
many after him. His purpose was to transform the state religion 
into paganism, and hence he converted the great mosque of the 
city into an idol temple, and this Asara, his priest, who was himself 
an image maker, studded with idols. 



Asara had a son called Braima who was brought up a Moham- 
medan. During his minority he was a seller of his father's idols, 
an occupation which he thoroughly abhorred, but which he was 
obliged to engage in. But in offering for sale his father's handi- 
work, he usually invited buyers by calling out : " Who would 
purchase falsehood ? " A premonition this of what the boy will 
afterwards become. 

By the influence of the Crown Prince a royal mandate was issued 
ordering all the men 'to go out hunting for three days before the 
annual celebration of the festivals held in honour of these gods. 

When Braima was old enough he seized the opportunity of one 
of such absences from the town of those who might have opposed 
him to destroy the gods whose presence had caused the sacred 
mosque to become desecrated. The axe with which the idols 
were hewed in pieces was left hanging on the neck of the chief idol, 
a huge thing in human shape. Enquiry being made, it was soon 
discovered who the iconoclast was, and when accosted, he gave 
replies which were not unUke those which Joash gave to the 
Abiezrites who had accused his son Gideon of having performed 
a similar act {see Judges vi, 28-33). Said Braima, " Ask that huge 
idol who did it." The men replied, " Can he speak? " " Then," 
said Braima " Why do you worship things which cannot speak ? " 
He was immediately ordered to be burnt aUve for this act of gross 
impiety. A thousand loads of wood were collected for a stake, and 
several pots of oil were brought for the purpose of firing the pile. 
This was signal for a civil war. Each of the two parties had 
powerful followers, but the Mohammedan party which was hitherto 
suppressed had the upper hand, and vanquished their opponents. 
Lamurudu the King was slain, and all his children with those who 
sympathized with them were expelled from the town. The Princes 
who became Kings of Gogobiri and of the Kukawa went westwards 
and Oduduwa eastwards. The latter travelled 90 days from 
Mecca, and after wandering about finally settled down at He 
Ifg where he met with Agb^-niregun (or Setilu) the founder of the 
Ifa worship. 

Oduduwa and his children had escaped with two idols to He 
He. Sahibu being sent with an army to destroy or reduce them 
to submission was defeated, and amongst the booty secured by 
the victors was a copy of the Koran. This was afterwards pre- 
served in a temple and was not only venerated by succeeding 
generations as a sacred reUc, but is even worshipped to this day 
under the name of Idi, signifying Something tied up. 

Such is the commonly received account among this intelligent 
although unlettered people. But traces of error are very apparent 


on the face of this tradition. The Yorubas are certainly not of the 
Arabian family, and could not have come from Mecca — that is 
to say the Mecca universally known in history, and no such 
accounts as the above are to be found in the records of Arabian 
writers of any kings of Mecca ; an event of such importance 
could hardly have passed unnoticed by their historians. But 
then it may be taken for granted that all such accounts and 
traditions have in them some basis in actual facts, nor is the subject 
under review exempted from the general rule, and this will become 
apparent on a closer study of the accounts. 

That the Yorubas came originally from the East there cannot 
be the slightest doubt, as their habits, manners and customs, etc., 
all go to prove. With them the East is Mecca and Mecca is the 
East. Having strong affinities with the East, and Mecca in the 
East looming so largely in their imagination, everything that comes 
from the East, with them, comes from Mecca, and hence it is 
natural to represent themselves as having hailed originally from 
that city. 

The only written record we have on this subject is that of the 
Sultan Belo of Sokoto, the founder of that city, the most learned 
if not the most powerful of the Fulani sovereigns that ever bore 
rule in the Soudan. 

Capt. Clapperton {Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central 
Africa, 1822 — 1824) made the acquaintance of this monarch. 
From a large geographical and historical work by him, Capt. 
Clapperton made a copious extract, from which the following is 
taken : — " Yarba is an extensive province containing rivers, 
forests, sands and mountains, as also a great many wonderful 
and extraordinary things. In it, the talking green bird called 
babaga (parrot) is found." 

" By the side of this province there is an anchorage or harbour 
for the ships of the Christians, who used to go there and purchase 
slaves. These slaves were exported from our country and sold 
to the people of Yarba, who resold them to the Christians." 

" The inhabitants of this province (Yarba) it is supposed 
originated from the remnant of the children of Canaan, who were 
of the tribe of Nimrod. The cause of their establishment in the 
West of Africa was, as it is stated, in consequence of their being 
driven by Yar-rooba, son of Kahtan, out of Arabia to the Western 
Coast between Egypt and Abyssinia. From that spot they 
advanced into the interior of Africa, till they reach Yarba where 
they fixed their residence. On their way they left in every place 
they stopped at, a tribe of their own people. Thus it is supposed 
that all the tribes of the Soudan who inhabit the mountains are 


originated from them as also are the inhabitants of Ya-ory. Upon 
the whole, the people of Yarba are nearly of the same description 
as those of Noofee (Nupe)^" 

In the name Lamurudu (or Namurudu) we can easily recognize 
a dialectic modification of the name Nimrod. Who this Nimrod 
was, whether Nimrod surnamed " the strong," the son of Hasoiil, 
or Nimrod the " mighty hunter " of the Bible, or whether both 
descriptions belong to one and the same person, we cannot tell, 
but this extract not only confirms the tradition of their origin but 
also casts a side light on the legend. Arabia is probably the 
" Mecca " of our tradition. It is known that the descendants of 
Nimrod (Phoenicians) were led in war to Arabia, that they settled 
there, and from thence they were driven by a rehgious persecution 
to Africa. We have here also the origin of the term Yoruba, 
from Yarba, their first permanent settlement in Africa. Yarba 
is the same as the Hausa term Yarriba for Yoruba. 

It is very curious that in the history of Mahomet we read of 
a similar flight of his first converts from Mecca to the East Coast 
of Africa (the first Hegira), due also to a religious persecution; 
this fact will serve to show that there is nothing improbable in 
the accounts as received by tradition. Again, that they emigrated 
from Upper Egypt to He Ife may also be proved by those sculptures 
commonly known as the " Ife Marbles," several of which may be 
seen at He Ife to this day, said to be the handiwork of the early 
ancestor of the race. They are altogether Egyptian in form. 
The most notable of them is what is known as the " Opa Orafiyan," 
(Orafiyan's staff) an obelisk standing on the site of Oraiiyan's 
supposed grave, having characters cut in it which suggest a Phoeni- 
cian origin. Three or four of these sculptures may now be seen 
in the Egyptian Court of the British Museum, showing at a glance 
that they are among kindred works of art. 

From these statements and traditions, whether authentic or 
mythologic, the only safe deductions we can make as to the mosit 
probable origin of the Yorubas are : — 

1. That they sprang from Upper Egypt, or Nubia. 

2. That they were subjects of the Egyptian conqueror Nimrod, 
who was of Phoenician origin, and that they followed him in his 
wars of conquest as far as Arabia, where they settled for a time. 
How subjects term themselves " children " or offspring of their 

^ Vide Narratives of Travels and Discoveries, by Major Denham 
and Capt. Clapperton, 1826. Appendix XII., Sec. IV. 

A' Tropical Dependency, by Flora L.Shaw (Lady Lugard), 1905, 
pp. 227 — 228. 


sovereigns is too well-known in this country, as we shall see in the 
course of this history. 

3. That from Arabia they were driven, on account of their 
practising there their own form of worship, which was either 
paganism or more likely a corrupt form of Eastern Christianity 
(which allowed of image worship — so distasteful to Moslems). 

Again, the name of the priest " Asara " is also a peculiar one ; 
it is so much like " Anasara " a term which Moslems generally 
applied to Christians (which signifies ' followers of the Nazarene ') 
as to make it probable that the revolution spoken of was in con- 
nection rather with Mohammedanism, and the corrupt form of 
Christianity of those days. 

Lastly, the sacred rehc called Idi from its being bound up and 
preserved, and which is supposed to have been a copy of the 
Koran, is probably another error. Copies of the Koran abound 
in this country, and they are not venerated thus, and why should 
this have become an object of worship ? The sacred book of the 
party opposed to them ! One can hardly resist coming to the 
conclusion that the book was not the Koran at all, but a copy of 
the Holy Scriptures in rolls, the form in which ancient manuscripts 
were preserved. The Koran being the only sacred book known to 
later generations which have lost all contact with Christianity 
for centuries after the great emigration into the heart of Africa, 
it is natural that their historians should at once jump to the 
conclusion that the thing bound up was the Koran. It might 
probably then be shown that the ancestors of the Yorubas, hailing 
from Upper Egypt, were either Coptic Christians, or at any rate 
that they had some knowledge of Christianity. If so, it might offer 
a solution of the problem of how it came about that traditional 
stories of the creation, the deluge, of Elijah, and other scriptural 
characters are current amongst them, and indirect stories of our 
Lord, termed " son of Moremi." 

But let us continue the story as given by tradition. Oduduwa 
and his sons swore a mortal hatred of the Moslems of their country, 
and were determined to avenge themselves of them ; but the former 
died at He Ife before he was powerful enough to march against 
them. His eldest son Okcinbi, commonly called Idekoseroake, 
also died there, leaving behind him seven princes and princesses 
who afterwards became renowned. From them sprang the various 
tribes of the Yoruba nation. His first-born was a princess who 
was married to a priest, and became the mother of the famous 
Olowu, the ancestor of the Owns. The second child was also a 
princess who became the mother of the Alaketu, the progenitor 
of the Ketu people. The third, a prince, became king of the 


Benin people. The fourth, the Orangun, became king of Ila ; the 
fifth, the Onisabe, or king of the Sabes ; the sixth, 01up6po, or king 
of the Popos ; the seventh and last born, Orafiyan, who was the pro- 
genitor of the Yorubas proper, or as they are better distinguished 

All these princes became kings who wore crowns as distinguished 
from those who were vassals who did not dare to wear crowns, 
but coronets called Akoro, a high-crowned head-gear, embroidered 
with silver. 

But it may be remarked that the Olowu's father was a commoner, 
and not a prince of the blood, and yet he became one of the crowned 
heads. The following anecdote will explain how this came about. 
The Yoruba princesses had (and still have) the Hberty of 
choosing husbands according to their fancy from any rank in life ; 
the King's eldest daughter chose to marry her father's priest, for 
whom she had the Olowu. 

This young prince was one day playing on his grandfather's 
knees, and he pulled at the crown on his head ; the indulgent 
parent thereupon placed it on the child's head, but Hke some spoiled 
children, he refused to give it up when required, and so it was left 
with him, the grandfather putting on another. The child had the 
crown on his head until he fell asleep in his mother's arms, when 
she took it off and returned it to her father, but the latter told her 
to keep it for her son, as he seemed so anxious to have it. Hence the 
right of the Olowu to wear the crown like his uncles. The same 
right was subsequently accorded to the Alaketu, i.e., the progenitor 
of the Ketu people. 

It was stated above that Orafiyan was the youngest of Oduduwa's 
grandchildren, but eventually he became the richest and most 
renowned of them all. How this came about is thus told by 
tradition : — 

On the death of the King, their grandfather, his property was 
unequally divided among his children as follows : — 

The King of Benin inherited his money (consisting of cowry 
shells), the Orangun of Ila his wives, the King of Sabe his cattle, 
the Olupopo the beads the Olowu the garments, and the Alaketu 
the crowns, and nothing was left for Orafiyan but the land. Some 
assert that he was absent on a warlike expedition when the partition 
was made, and so he was shut out of all movable properties. 
Oranyan was, however, satisfied with his portion, which he pro- 
ceeded forthwith to turn to good account with the utmost skill. 
He held his brothers as tenants living on the land which was his ; 
for rents he received money, women, cattle, beads, garments, and 
crowns, which were his brothers' portions, as all these were more 


or less dependent on the soil, and were deriving sustenance from 
it. And he was the one selected to succeed the father as King in 
the direct line of succession. ^ To his brothers were assigned the 
various provinces over which they ruled more or less independently, 
Oranyan himself being placed on the throne as the AlAfin or Lord 
of the Royal Palace at He Ife. 

According to another account, Oranyan had only a bit of rag 
left him, containing earth, 21 pieces of iron, and a cock. The whole 
surface of the earth was then covered with water. Oraiiyan laid 
his portion on the surface of the water, and placed on it the cock, 
which scattered the earth with his feet ; the wide expanse of water 
became filled up, and the dry land appeared everywhere. His 
brothers preferring to live on dry land rather than on the surface 
of the water were permitted to do so on their paying an annual 
tribute for sharing with their younger brother his own portion. 

It will be noticed that both traditions attribute the land to 
Oraiiyan ; hence the common saying " Alafin I'oni ile " (the Alafin 
is the lord of the land) : the pieces of iron representing underground 
treasures, and the cock such as subsist on the land. 

The former account seems more probable, the latter being httle 
else but a travesty of the story of the creation or the flood. But 
it is fair to mention that the more generally received opinion is, 
that Oranyan became more prosperous than his brothers owing to 
the fact of his living virtuously, they bemg given up to a life of 
unrestrained licentiousness ; and being also by far the bravest of 
them all, he was preferred above them and was seated on the 
ancestral throne at Ile Ife which was then the capital of the Yoruba 

The Alake and the Owa of Ilesa are said to be nearly related to 
the Alafin ; the former was said to be of the same mother with 
one of the earliest Alafins. This woman was called Ejo who after- 
wards took up her abode with her youngest son until her death : 
hence the common saying " Ejo ku Ake " Ejg* died at Ake. 

The Owa of the Ijesas claimed to be one of the younger brothers, 
but his pedigree cannot now be traced; the term "brother" 
being a very elastic one in Yoruba and may be applied to any 
relative far or near, and even to a trusty servant or to one adopted 

1 The reason assigned for this was that he was "born in the 
purple," that is to say born after the father had become King. 
This was at one time the prevailing custom for the " Aremo Ovh," 
i.e., the first born from the throne, to succeed the father. 

2 Ejo means a palaver. The phrase then means a case decided 
at Ake is final. 


into the family. ^ In olden times when there was universal peace 
throughout the country, before the commencement of the destruc- 
tive intertribal wars which broke up the unity of the kingdom 
and created the tribal independence, this relationship was 
acknowledged by the Owa paying a yearly tribute of a few heads 
of cowries, mats and some products of his forests to the AlAfin, 
while the latter sent him presents of tobes and vests, and other 
superior articles well worthy of him as an elder brother. 

That the AlAfin, the Alake, and the Owa were children or 
grandchildren of Oraiiyan seems probable from the fact that to 
this day none of them is considered properly installed until the 
sword of state brought from He Ife where Oraiiyan was buried is 
placed in his hands. 

Oraiiyan was a nickname of the prince his proper name being 
Odede. He was a man of great physical powers. He first 
obtained renown as a mighty hunter ; and in process of time he 
also became, like Nimrod, a mighty conqueror. 

The expedition against Mecca. — When Oraiiyan was sufficiently 
strong, he set off for an expedition against " Mecca " to which he 
summoned his brothers, to avenge the death of their great-grand- 
father, and the expulsion of his party from that city. He left 
Adimu one of his father's trusty servants in charge of the royal 
treasures and the charms, with a strict injunction to observe the 
customary worship of the national gods Idi and Orisa Osi. 

This is an office of the greatest importance pertaining to the 
King himself • but how slaves or high servants are often entrusted 
with the duties of the master himself is well-known in this country 
as we shall see in the course of this history. 

It is said that the route by which they came from " Mecca " 
and which occupied 90 days, was by this time rendered impassable 
owing to an army of black ants blocking up the path, and hence, 
Oraiiyan was obliged to take another route which led through the 
Nupe or Tapa Country. All his brothers but the eldest joined 
him, but at Igangan they quarrelled over a pot of beer and dispersed 
refusing to follow his lead. The eldest brother calculating the 
distance through the Tapa country lost courage and went eastward 
promising to make his attack from that quarter should his brother 
Oraiiyan be successful in the West.* . Orafiyan pushed on until 
he found himself on the banks of the River Niger. 

The Tapas are said to have opposed his crossing the river, and 
as he could not force his way through, he was obhged to remain 
for a while near the banks, and afterwards resolved to retrace his 

^ A fuller account will be found under "The origin of the Ijesas." 
"^ The geography of our historians may be excused. — Ed, 


steps. To return, however, to He Ife was too humiliating to be 
thought of, and hence he consulted the King of Ibariba near whose 
territory he was then encamping as to where he should make his 
residence. Tradition has it, that the King of Ibariba made a 
charm and fixed it on a boa constrictor and advised Orafiyan to 
follow the track of the boa and wherever it remained for 7 days 
and then disappeared, there he was to build a town. Orariyan 
and his army followed his directions and went after the boa up to 
the foot of a hill called Ajaka where the reptile remained 7 days, 
and then disappeared. According to instructions Oranyan halted 
there, and built a town called Oyo Ajaka. This was the 
ancient city of Oyo marked in ancient maps as Eyeo or Katunga 
(the latter being the Hausa term for Oyo) capital of Yarriba (see 
Webster's pronouncing Gazetteer). This was the Eyeo visited 
by the EngHsh explorers Clapperton and the Landers. 

Orafiyan remained and prospered in the new home, his decendants 
spread East, West, and South-west ; they had a free communica- 
tion with He Ife, and the King often sent to Adimu for whatever 
was required by him out of the royal treasures for the new city. 

In process of time Adimu made himself great because he was 
not only the worshipper of the national deities, but also the 
custodian and dispenser of the King's treasures, and he was 
commonly designated " Adimu Ola " i.e. Adimu of the treasures, 
or Adimu 1^ i.e. Adimu is become wealthy. 

But this Adimu who became of so much consequence from his 
performing royal functions was originally the son of a woman 
condemned to death, but being found at the time of execution 
to be in the way of becoming a mother she was temporarily 
reprieved, until the child was born. This child at its birth was 
dedicated to the perpetual service of the gods, especially the 
god Obatala, to which his mother was to have been sacrificed. 
He was said to be honest, faithful and devoted to the King as to 
his own father, and therefore he was loved and trusted. 

When Adimu was announced to the Kings and Princes all 
around as the person appointed by the King to take charge of 
the treasures, and to worship the national deities during his 
absence, it was generally asked " And who is this Adimu ? The 
answer comes " Omo Oluwo ni " the son of a sacrificial victim : 
this is contracted to Ow6ni (Oluwo being the term for a sacrificial 
victim). So in subsequent years when the seat of government 
was removed permanently to Oyo but not the National Deities, 
Adimu became supreme at He Ife and his successors to this day 
have been termed the Olorisas i.e. high priests or fetish worshippers 
to the King, and people of the whole Yoruba nation. The name 


Adimu has since been adopted as the agnomen, and the term Owoni 
as the title of the " Kings " or more properly the high priests of 
Ife to this day, the duties of the office being not local or tribal, 
but national. 

According to another account, after the death of Okknbi, 
Oraiiyan having succeeded and assumed the command emigrated 
to Oko where he reigned and where he died, and the seat of 
government was removed thence in the reign of Sango to Oyokoro, 
i.e., the aforesaid ancient City of Oyo. 

Oraiiyan may have actually died at Oko, but his grave with an 
obelisk over it is certainly shown at He Ife to this day. It is a 
custom among the Yorubas — a custom observed to this day — to 
pare the nails and shave the head of any one who dies at a con- 
siderable distance from the place where they would have him 
buried. These relics are taken to the place of interment, and there 
decently buried, the funeral obsequies being scrupulously observed 
as if the corpse itself were buried there. Hence although (as we have 
on probable grounds assumed) Oraiiyan may have died at Oko, and 
the art of embalming lost or unknown, his relics could thus have 
been taken to He Ife where to this day he is supposed to have been 
buried. A more romantic account of his death, however, will be 
given in Part II of this history. 

As the Yorubas worship the dead, and have the belief that 
prayers offered at the grave of deceased ancestors are potent to 
procure temporal blessings, all succeeding Yoruba Kings on their 
accession and before coronation are expected to send to perform 
acts of worship at the grave of Oduduwa and to receive the benedic- 
tion of the priest. The sword of justice known as Ida Oranyan 
(Oranyan's sword) is to be brought from He Ife and ceremoniously 
placed in their hands ; without this being done, the King has no 
authority whatever to order an execution. Orafi5^an's descendants 
in process of time were divided into four distinct famihes, known 
by their distinctive dialects, and forming the four provinces of 
Yoruba proper viz. the Ekun Otun, Ekun Osi, Ibolo and Epo 
provinces. The Ekun Otun and Ekun Osi or right and left, i.e., 
Eastern and Western provinces are the towns lying to the East 
and West of the City of Oyo. 

I. The Ekun Otun or Western province included all the towns 
along the right bank of the River Ogun down to Ibere kodo, Igana 
being the chief town. The other important towns are : — Skki, 
Oke'ho, Ise5nn, Iwawun, Eruwa, Iberekodo, etc. In this province 
two distinct dialects are spoken ; the people inhabiting the outer- 
most borders are known as Ibai^apas and are distinguished by a 
nasal twang in their speech. 


2. The Ekun Osi or Metropolitan province comprised all the 
towns east of Oyo, including Kihisi and Igboho in the north, 
Ikoyi being the chief town. Other important towns are, Ilorin 
Irawo, Iwere, Ogbomoso etc. including the Igbonas in the utmost 
limit eastwards, and the Igbon-nas as far as Or6. 

The Igbdnas are distinguished by a peculiar dialect of their own. 
The Ekun Osi Oyos are regarded as speaking the purest Yoruba. 
The ancient cit}' of Oyo alsp lies in this province. 

3. The Ibolo province lies to the south-east of the Ekun Osi 
towns as far down as Ede, Iresa being the chief town. The 
other important towns are Ofa (?) Oyan, Okuku, Ikirun, Osogbo, 
Ido, Ilobu, Ejigbo, Ede. 

4. The Epos are the towns lying to the South and South-west of 
Oyo the chief town of which is Idode. Other important towns 
in this division are : Masifa, Ife odan, Ara. Iwo, Ilora, Akinmoirin 
Fiditi, Awe, Ago Oja. 

They are called Epos (i.e. weeds) because they were then in the 
remotest part of the kingdom, rude and uncouth in manners, very 
deceitful, and far from being as loyal as the other tribes. The 
Owns were usually reckoned amongst them, but they are rather 
a distinct tribe of Yoruba although now domiciled amongst the 

Great changes have been effected in these divisions by means 
of the revolutionary wars that altered the face of the country 
about the early part of the XlXth century. 

In the Ekun Otun district Igana has lost its importance and its 
place taken by Iseyin. 

In 'the Ekun Osi, Ikoyi the chief town has been destroyed by 
Ilorin, and Ilorin itself brought under foreign allegiance by the 
Fulanis. The city of Oyo now lies in ruins, its name and position 
being transferred to Ago Oja in the Epo district. In the Ibglg district 
Iresa has ceased to exist being absorbed by Ilorin and its place taken 
by Ofa, which in its turn was partially destroyed by the Ilorins in 
1887 with several other towns in this district. Modakeke a large 
and growing town, peopled by Oygs of the Ekun Osi, has sprung 
up in the Ife district just beyond the borders of the Ibolgs. 

Owu has been destroyed never more to be rebuilt. 

The Epo district now includes Ibadan, Ijaye and other towns 
formerly belonging to the Gbaguras. Idode has ceased to be the 
dhief town, that position now properly belongs to Iwo, being a 
royal city. But Ibadan which was originally an Egba village 
then the military station of the confederate army which destroyed 
the city of Owu and the Egba villages, and afterwards a settled Oyg 
town, has by means of its mihtary force assumed the lead not only 


over the Epo district, but also over a large area of the country as 
well. It has a mixed population including every tribe of the 

Ijaye formerly an Egba town became peopled by Qyos chiefly 
from the 5kun Osi (Ikoyi) districts. 

All these including hundreds of important towns within the 
area are peopled by Yorubas proper or Oyos as they are generally 
called, and constitute the more important portion of Yoruba proper. 

The Egbas, who were for the most part off-shoots of these, and 
formerly Uving in hamlets and villages independently of one another 
have through the exigencies of these wars collected themselves 
from 153 hamlets or " townships " to form one town, Abeokuta. 
A further account of this will be given in its place. All these 
are reckoned as descendants of Orariyan. 

By the advent also of the white men from the coast, the centre 
of light and civilization has removed to the south, so that the 
Epos may soon cease to be the " weeds " of the country, as they 
may receive the inspiration of civilization from the south instead 
of from the north as hitherto. 

Chapter II 

All the various tribes of the Yoruba nation trace their origin 
from Oduduwa and the city He If§. In fact He Ife is fabled as 
the spot where God created man, white and black, and from 
whence they dispersed all over the earth. We have seen in the 
previous chapter which are the principal tribes that sprang from 
Oduduwa's seven grandchildren, viz. : The Yorubas proper from 
Orafiyan, the Benins, Has, Owns, Ketus, Sabes, and the Popos. 
Some of the other tribes were offshoots of one or other of these, as 
we shall see further on. Some authentic tradition will be given 
relative to the formation of some of them. 

An important fact which must also be borne in mind is, that the 
country was not altogether unpeopled when Oduduwa and his 
party entered it from the East ; the probabiUty is, that the abori- 
ginal inhabitants were conquered and absorbed, at least at the 
central if not at the remote provinces of the Yoruba kingdom. 

In ancient patriarchal times, the king of a country was 
regarded as the father or progenitor of his people. This view will 
to some extent explain what would otherwise appear to be a 
marvellous (if not impossible) instance of fecundity in any one 
king, e.g., Orafiyan peopling so vast a region as that attributed 
to him, in so short a time — the more warlike the king, the more 
extensive his dominion, and the more numerous, it would seem, his 

In fact we may almost take it as proved that as Orafiyan and 
his army, as well as his brothers', pushed on their conquests in 
every direction, the princes and the war-lords were stationed in 
various parts to hold the country, and from them sprang the many 
provincial kings of various ranks and grades now existing. 

This also accounts for the tradition that the Yoruba sway once 
extended as far as Ashanti and included the Gas of Accra, for the 
Gas say that their ancestors came from He Ife ; and the constitution 
of the Ga language is said to be more like Yoruba than hke Fanti, 
the language of the Gold Coast, and the area in which that language 
is spoken is strictly hmited. And, certainly, until comparatively 
recent times the Popos and Dahomians paid tribute regularly to 
Oyo as their feudal head ; it is certain, therefore, that the generals 
and war-lords of Orafiyan pushed on far beyond the Umits of the 
Yoruba country as now known, and although in places remote from 



the centre, as the Benins and Sekiris in the east and the Popos, 
Dahomians and Gas in the west, the Yoruba language is not 
spoken, yet the knowledge of it exists among the ruling chiefs 
and the priestly caste who still maintain their connection with He 
Ife, the place of their common origin. This view will also to some 
extent explain the mutual understanding and bond of sympathy 
existing between the Ifes, Ekitis, and allied families as remnants 
of the largely diluted aboriginal elements still having many things 
in common, and their natural antipathy — more or less — to the 
Oyos or Yorubas Proper. 

It is also worthy of remark that all the principal rulers of the 
country, to show the validity of their claims, must trace their 
relationship by one way or another to the AlAfin of Oyo, who is the 
direct descendant of Orafiyan, son and successor of Oduduwa, the 
founder ; which simply impHes that the children and offspring of 
the conqueror are the chief rulers over the different parts of the 
conquered territories. 

Yoruba Proper 

Oranyan was already distinguished as a brave and war-like 
prince during his father's lifetime, and he probably owed his 
succession to this fact, as was usual in those stormy times. On 
his accession to the throne, when he set out from lie Ife on his 
famous expedition to " Mecca " to avenge the death of his great 
grandfather, he was certainly accompanied by his conquering 
hordes ; and if we trace his route from He Ife northwards to the 
banks of the Niger, whence he turned westward to the borders of 
the Baribas, and then to the ancient Oyo (Eyeo) which he founded, 
and where he settled, and from whence he spread southwards 
towards the coast, we shall see that the people embraced in this 
vast region, viz., with the Ifes in the east, the Niger on the north, 
the Baribas on the west as well as the Dahomians, and the 
Egbados on the south, are those known as the Yorubas Proper, 
or as they are generally termed by the other tribes the Oyqs, 
and are the so-called descendants of Orafiyan, and the cream of 
his conquering army. These then constitute Yorubas Proper. 

We have stated in a previous chapter how they are divided 
into four distinct provinces, but there has always been among them 
a bond of sympathy and union, apart from what they have in 
common with the other tribes. They have always retained 
their loyalty — more or less — to the successors of Orafiyan, their 
common father, even when the revolutionary wars left the country 
no longer united under one head as in the days of Sango down to 
those of Abiodun 


The Egbas 

The Egbas are a small offshoot of the Yorubas Proper, who 
occupy the south-eastern districts of that province. They origin- 
ally occupied the area bounded by certain imaginary lines drawn, 
say, from Ijaye to meet the Ogun River at Olokemeji, and along 
it to its mouth, and another from the same point via Ibadan to 
the west of Jebu Remo down to the coast. They lived in hamlets 
and villages for the most, part independently of one another, and 
never under one rule. All the principal families of the Egbas trace 
their origin from Oyo, hence the common saying " Egbas who have 
not their root in Oyo are slaves," i.e., belong to the conquered 
aboriginal population. Most of the chiefs sprang from the Esos 
of Oyo. It would seem then that during the wars of conquest, a 
number of these warhke Esgs, under the leadership of the King's 
half-brother, was detached from the main army, carrying their 
arms to those regions where they subsequently settled, in the 
immediate neighbourhood of the Owns. Abeokuta, as we now know 
it, of course had no existence then. Each of what is now called 
the " townships " was a separate village or hamlet with its own 
chief ; they were loosely grouped into three divisions, but rather 
independent of one another, but all acknowledging the King's 
brother (the Alake) as their Primus. They were : 

1. Egba Agbeyin. These were the Egbas proper, and nearest 
the I jebu Remos. The principal towns were : Ake, the chief town, 
Ijeun, Kemta, Iporo, Igbore, etc. 

2. Egba Oke Ona, i.e., those situated near the banks of the 
River Odo Ona. Oko the chief town, Ikereku, Ikija, Idomapa, 
Odo, Podo, etc. Their chief is called the Osile. 

3. Egba Agura or Gbagura : these were situated near the Oyo 
districts, and indeed they contain genuine Oyos in large numbers, 
and generall}'^ they partake of their characteristics largely, hence 
they are nick-named " Oyos among Egbas." The principal towns 
were : Agura the chief, Ilugun, Ibadan, Ifaye, Ika, Ojo, Ilawo, 

The Egbas were on the whole few in number, and occupied a 
limited territory ; this can very well be proved by the fact, that 
after a period of more than half a century, they have been 
compelled by stress of circumstances to live together within one 
wall, and in spite of large accessions from other tribes, they still 
form but a single large town. Situated, as they were then, far from 
the centre of life and activity, they were little thought of. They 
had no separate king because all the principal chiefs and 
distinguished personages were office bearers of the AlAfin, hence 


the common saying, " Egba ko I'olu, gbogbo nwon ni nse hi Oba " 
(Egbas have no King, they are all of them like masters) " Olu wa' 
rOyo " (The King is at Oyo). It may be noted, that every child 
born to a reigning Alake must have an Oyo facial mark ; and that 
is so to this day. In early times the Alake ranks among the 
junior members of the Royal Family ; for that reason there has 
never been a distinct royal family arnong the Egbas. The chief 
rulers in each division were usually elected (by divination) from 
any one of the 153 townships ; an Ikija man for instance has been 
" king " of Itesi, an Ijeun man an Alake, etc., as we shall see in the 
Appendix. In this respect also the Gbaguras differ from the 

In later times, at Abeokuta, one Jibode, a wealthy trader and 
traveller, who vainly endeavoured to obtain the Primacy of Ake, 
left children and grandchildren who eventually attained the 
coveted position, which was a singular instance of more than one 
member of a family becoming an Alake, ^ but then they were 
all born in different townships. 

The Osile is said to be an unfortunate title because, more than 
any of the other divisions, the Oke Ona people were more ptone to 
slaughter human victims ; everytime the Osile entered the Ogboni 
house, he must walk on the blood of a male victim, and when he 
comes out on that of a female ! Also that Osiles never die a natural 
death ; when their excesses became unbearable they were usually 
stoned to death ; hence the appellation of their chief town, " Oko " 
— i.e., a pelting stone. For that reason the Egbas were reluctant 
to resuscitate the title at Abeokuta until Governor McCallum 
of Lagos in 1897 on the occasion of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee 
ordered the Egbas and others to reorganise their government, and 
fill up vacant titles. 

Since the destruction of the City of Owu (as we shall see below) 
and the unification of the Egba villages, the Owus have domiciled 
amongst them. Hence the so-called Four United Kings of the 
Egbas : although Owu is not Egba. 

The Ijebus 

The origin of the Ijebus has been variously given ; one account 
makes them spring from the victims offered in sacrifice by the 
King of Benin to the god of the ocean, hence the term Ijebu 
from Ije-ibu, i.e., the food of the deep. The Ijebus themselves 

'The case of Gbadebo, son of Okukenu, occurred subsequently to 
the estabhshment of the British Protectorate. 


claim to have descended from Oba-nita, as they say of themselves, 
" Ogetiele, eru Obanita," i.e., Ogetiele/ servants of Obanita. 

But who was this Oba-nita ? Tradition says he also was a victim 
of sacrifice by the Olowu or King of Owu. It was said that the 
Olowu offered in sacrifice a human being where two roads cross ; 
this was termed " Ebo-ni-ita," a sacrifice on the highway, the 
victim being mangled and left for dead ; he, however, revived at 
night, and crawled away into the forest, where he subsequently 
recovered and survived. He lived on fruits, on the chase, and 
then did a bit of farming. With an access of population, being 
the oldest man met in those parts, he was regarded as the father, 
and subsequent generations call him their ancestor, and so the 
Ijebu tribe was formed, and the term " Ebonita " (a sacrifice on 
the highway) was converted to " Obanita " (a king on the high- 
way). There was really nobody of that name. A forest is still 
shown near the village of Aha where he is annually worshipped, 
from whence he was supposed to have ascended into heaven. 

It is rather curious that both accounts should have made them 
descended from victims of human sacrifices. This latter account 
is reconcilable with the former, which says they are " the food of 
the deep," for the population of which Ebonita was the head may 
have been largely augmented by the victims of the ocean so as to 
give the name Ije-ibu to the whole of them. 

There are also other important facts and curious coincidences 
connected with the Ijebus which have strong bearings on this 
tradition of their origin. 

1. Of all the Yoruba tribes, with the exception of the Ifes 
they were the most addicted to human sacrifices, which they 
practised up to 1892 when the country was conquered by the 
Enghsh. The \'ictim also usually offered to " Obanita " annually 
was always a human being, but this was never killed ; he was, 
however, always acted upon in some way or other unknown (by 
magic arts) that he always became demented, and left to wander 
about sheepishly in the Aha Forest, until he perished there. This 
is, no doubt, due to the fact that the ancestor " Ebonita " himself, 
when a victim, was not killed outright. 

2. They were, before the conquest, the most exclusive and 
inhospitable of the whole of the tribes. Very few, if any, out- 
siders were ever known to have walked through the country with 
impunity under any circumstance whatever ; not a few of those 
who attempted to do so were never seen nor heard of any more ! 

^An untranslatable word, an onomatopoeic expression for 
whatever is immense and magnificent. 


Commercial transactions with outsiders were carried on in the 
frontier or in the borders of neighbouring towns. 

3. And if the latter account of their origin from the Owu 
victim be the correct one, it is very singular indeed that it was 
mainly due to the Ijebus with their firearms that the Owns owed 
their fall and complete annihilation as an independent state to 
this day. A full account of this will be given in due course. 

The King of the Ijebus is known as the Awujale. His origin 
was thus given by authentic tradition, the event with which it is 
connected having occurred within authentic history : 

There were formerly two important towns called Owu Ipole 
and Iseyin Odo in a district between the Owns and If §s ; they were 
settlements from the city of Owu and Iseyin respectively. A 
quarrel once arose between them on the matter of boundaries, 
and the dispute having been carried on for many years, developed 
into an open fight, and both the Olowu and the Owoni of Ife 
(both being interested parties) were unable to put an end to the 
strife. Messengers were now sent to the King at Oyo who sent out 
a special Ilari and a large number of attendants to put an end to 
the strife. The person of an Ilari being inviolable, he came and 
settled down between the two contending parties, in the midst of 
the disputed plot, and thus compelled them to keep, the peace. 
The Ilari was named " Agbejaile or Alajaile " (an arbiter of landed 
dispute). This term was subsequently sof termed, down to Awujale.^ 
This event occurred during the reign of King Jayin. 

As it was customary to pay royal honours to the King's mes- 
sengers out of courtesy, this Ilari was accorded royal honours 
in due form, and he remained there permanently and became the 
King of that region over the Ijebus who up to that time had 
no tribal " king " of their own and rather held themselves aloof 
from their neighbours. Subsequently he removed to Ode. 
The Awujale ranks after the Oyo provincial kings such as the 
Onikoyi, Olafa, Aresa, Aseyin. 

Origin of the Ijesas and Ekitis 

Two accounts are given of the origin of the Ijesas ; both may 
practically be regarded as in the main correct, so far as they are not 
really contradictory ; for it would appear that the Ijesas of the 
present day are not the same people or, rather, not the descendants 
of the aboriginal inhabitants of that province. 

The first account relates to the earUest period when the Yorubas 
have just entered into, and subdued, the country, and the AlAfins 

^An Ilari title at Oyo to this day. 


then resided at He lie, i.e., prior to the reign of Sango. Human 
sacrifices were common in those days, and in order to have victims 
ready to hand, it is said that a number of slaves were purchased 
and located in the district of Ibokun ; there they were tended as 
cattle, under the care of Owaju, and from them selections were 
made from time to time for sacrificial purposes ; hence the term 
Ijesa from Ije Orisa (the food of the gods). They are described as 
stumpy, muscular, and sheepish-looking, with a marked want 
of intelhgence : they never cJffered any resistance to this system, 
hence the saying "Ijesa Omo Owaju ti ife opo iyk " (Ijesas children 
of Owaju, subject to much sufferings). There is also a legend 
that when the nations began to disperse from He Ife and members of 
the Royal Family were appointed kings and rulers in divers places, 
a young and brave scion of the house was appointed the first 
Owa or king over the Ijesas, but that he returned to the AlAfin 
and complained that his territory was tocv small, and his subjects 
few, the sire thereupon ordered a large bundle of sticks to be 
brought to him, and these sticks he converted into human beings 
for the Owa, in order to increase the number of his subjects. Hence 
to this day the Ijesas are often termed by their neighbours " Qmo 
igi " (offspring of sticks !) 

This, of course, is a pure myth invented by their more wily 
neighbours to account for the notorious characteristics of the Ijesas 
generally, who are as proverbially deficient in wit as they are 
remarkably distinguished for brute strength. 

But one fact holds good down even to our days, viz., that up 
to the recent total abohtion of human sacrifice by the British 
Government (1893) the Ifes, who, far more than any other, were 
addicted to the practice, always preferred for the purpose to have 
an Ijesa victim to any other ; such sacrifices were considered more 
acceptable, the victims being the " food of the gods." 

This preference was the cause of more than one threatened rupture 
between the Ifes and their Ijesa aUies during the recent 16 years' 
war, and would certainly have developed into open fights, but 
for the Ibadan army vis-d-vis threatening them both. 

The other account relates chiefly to the present day Ijesas of 
Ilesa (the home of the gods) the chief town. According to this 
account, they hailed from the Ekitis ; or as some would more 
correctly have it, they were the Ijesas from the neighbourhood of 
Ibokun who first migrated to Ipole near Ondo, and thence back 
to Ilesa. It appears that a custom then prevailed of going out 
hunting for their king three months in the year, and on one such 
occasion they found game so plentiful in the neighbourhood of 
Ilesa, the chmate very agreeable, the country well-watered, and 


the Ijesas there extremely simple, peaceful, and unwarhke (probably 
the remnants and descendants of the old sacrificial victims) whilst 
at home they endured much oppression from their Owa, that 
they there and then conceived and carried out the idea of settling 
on the spot at once, making it their home, and of reducing into 
subjection the aboriginal inhabitants. 

These objects were easily enough accompHshed ; but they spared 
the principal chief, a kindly old gentleman who had an extensive 
garden plantation. He was called " Oba Ila," i.e., Okra king, 
from his Okra plantation, and he was placed next in rank to the 
chief of the marauders. That nickname is continued to the present 
time as a title Oba'la^ and is conferred on the most distinguished 
chief after the Owa of Ilesa. It would appear then that although 
the term Ijesa is retained by the people of that district, and those 
who are ignorant of the origin of the term take some pride in it, 
yet it is evident that the present inhabitants are not all of them 
the descendants of the aboriginal settlers, the " food of the gods," 
but are largely from the Ekitis by admixture ; the pure type 
Ijesas are now and again met with at Ilesa and neighbourhood. 

This fact is fuither shown by the want of homogeneity amongst 
the principal chiefs of Ilesa at the present day, for when the town 
was growing, the settlers did cast about for help ; they sought for 
wiser heads to assist them in the building up and the management 
of their country, e.g., from the Oyos or Yorubas Proper they had 
the Odgle from Irehe, the Esawe from Ora, the Saloro from Oyo 
(the ancient city), and the Sorundi also from the same city — all 
these came with a large number of followers ; from the Ondos, the 
'Loro, and the Salosi from I jama in the Ondo district ; from the 
Ekitis, the Arapate from Ara, the Lejoka from Itaje ; and 
lastly, the Ogboni from the white cap chiefs of Lagos, the 
only one privileged to have on his headgear in the presence of the 
Owa. The Owa himself is as we have seen, a junior member of 
the royal house of Oyo. 

It is also said that when the town of Ilesa was to be laid out a 
special messenger was sent to the AlAfin to ask for the help of 
one of the princes to lay out the town on the same plan as the 
ancient city of Oyo. That prince ruled for some years at Ilesa. 

The Ekitis 

The Ekitis are among the aboriginal elements of the country 
absorbed by the invaders from the East. The term Ekiti denotes 
a Mound, and is derived from the rugged mountainous feature of 

^Often miscalled Obanla by young Ije§as outside Ilesa. 


the country. It is an extensive province and well watered, includ- 
ing several tribes and families right on to the border of the Niger, 
eastward. They hold themselves quite distinct from the Ijesas, 
especially in pohtical affairs. The Ekiti country is divided into 
i6 districts, each with its own Owa or King (Owa being a generic 
term amongst them) of which four are supreme, viz. : — 

1. The 6w6re of Otun 3. The Elewi of Ado 

2. The Ajero of Ijero 4. The Elekole of Ikole 

The following are the minor Ekiti kings : — 

5. Alara of Ara it. Qlgja Oke of Igbo Odo 

6. Alaye of Efon Ahaye 12. Oloye of Oye 

7. Ajanpanda of Akure 13. Olomuwo of Omuwo 

8. Alagotun of Ogotun 14. Onire of Ire 

9. Olojudo of Ido 15. Arinjale of Ise 
10. Ata of Aiyede 16. Onitaji of Itaji 

The Orangun of Ila is sometimes classed among them, but he is 
only Ekiti in sympathy, being of a different family. 

An Ijesa account of the Owa ot Ilesa and some of the principal 
Ekiti kings : 

The Olofin (? Alafin) king of Ife had several children, grand- 
children, and great grandchildren ; amongst them were, the king 
of Ado or Benin, the King of Oyg, the Osomowe of Ondo (from a 
daughter), the Alara of Ara, the Ajero of Ijero, the Alaye of Efon, 
the Owore of Otun, the Orangun of Ila, the Aregbajo of Igbajo, 
the Owa Ajaka of Ilesa. When the Olofin became bhnd from old 
age he was much depressed in mind from this cause ; efforts were 
put forth to effect his cure, all of which proved fruitless, when a 
certain man came forward and prescribed for him a sure remedy 
which among other ingredients contained salt water. He put the 
case before his children, but none made any effort to procure some 
for him save his youngest grandson. This was a very brave and 
warlike prince who bore the title of Esinkin amongst the King's 
household warriors, a title much alHed to that of the Kakanfo, 
He was surnamed Ajaka, i.e., one who fights everywhere, (on 
account of his procHvities) being fond of adventures. He volun- 
teered to go and fetch some wherever procurable. 

Having been away for many years and not heard of, the aged 
sire and every one else despaired of his ever coming back ; so the 
King divided his property amongst the remaining grown-up 
children. Although the Alado (king of Benin) was the eldest yet 
the Oloyg was the most beloved, and to him he gave the land, and 
told him to scour it all over, and settle nowhere till he came to a 


slippery place, and there make his abode ; hence the term Oyg 
(shppery) and hence Oyos are such shppery customers ! 

After they had all gone and settled in their respective locaHties, 
all unexpectedly, the young adventurer turned up with water from 
the sea ! The monarch made use of it as per prescription and 
regained his sight ! Hence the Ijesas who subsequently became his 
subjects are sometimes termed " Omg Obokun," children of the 
brine procurer. 

Having distributed all his property he had nothing left for Ajaka 
he therefore gave him a sword lying by his side with leave to attack 
any of his brothers, especially the Alara or Alado, and possess 
himself of their wealth, but should he fail, to retire back to him ; 
hence the appellation " Owa Ajaka Onida raharaha " (Owa the 
ubiquitous fighter, a man with a devastating sword). 

The Owa Ajaka settled a Uttle way from his grandfather, and on 
one occasion he paid him a visit, and found him sitting alone 
with his crown on his head and — out of sheer wantonness — he cut 
off some of the fringes with his sword. The old man was enraged 
by this act, and swore that he would never wear a crown with 
fringes on.^ 

The Aregbajo was one of those who had a crown given to him, 
but the Owa Ajaka, paying him a visit on one occasion, saw it, 
and took it away, and never returned it : hence the kings of Igbajo 
never wear a crown to this day. 

The Owa also attacked the Olojudo and defeated him, and took 
possession of his crown ; but he never put it on. On every public 
occasion however, it used to be carried before him. This continued 
to be the case until all the tribes became independent. 

The Owa's mother, when married as a young bride, was placed 
under the care of the mother of the Qloyo, hence the AlAfin of 
Oyo often regarded the Owa as his own son. 

The Orangun of Ila, and the Alara of Ara were his brothers of 
the same mother. 

The Ow6ni of Ife was not a son of the Ololin, but the son of a 
female slave of his whom he offered in sacrifice. The Olefin kept 
the boy always by him, and when he sent away his sons, this httle 
boy took great care of him and managed his household affairs well 
until his death : hence the Oloyo on succeeding the father authorised 
the boy to have charge of the palace and the city, and he sent to 
notify his brothers of this appointment. So whenever it was 
asked who was in charge of the house the answer invariably was 

^Only those with fringes on are really crowns. 


" Omo Oluwo ni " (It is the son of the sacrificial victim). This 
has been contracted to the term Ow6ni. 

The Owa and his brothers used to pay the AlAfin annual visits, 
with presents of firewood, fine locally-made mats, kola nuts and 
bitter kolas ; the Ow6re of Otun with sweet water from a cool 
spring at Otun — this water the AlAfin first spills on the ground 
as a Ubation before performing any ceremonies. The other Ekiti 
Kings used also to take with them suitable presents as each could 
afford, and bring away lavish presents from their elder brother. 

This Ajaka subsequently became the Owa of the Ijesas. 

The Ondos 

The custom of killing twins prevailed all over the country in 
early times ; it has died out all over the greater part ot it so long 
ago, that no one can say precisely when or by whom a stop was put 
to it. But it happened once upon a time when the practice still 
prevailed that one of the wives of the AlAfin (King Ajaka) gave 
birth to twins, and the King was loth to destroy them, he thereupon 
gave orders that they should be removed — with the mother — to a 
remote part of the kingdom and there to remain and be regarded 
as dead. 

So she left with a large number of friends and retinue to the site 
of the present Ode Ondo, then sparsely peopled by a tribe named 
Idoko, and there settled, hence the term " Ondo," signifying the 
" Settlers." The people of the district knowing who the strangers 
were, yielded them ready obedience, and the strangers became rulers 
of the district. 

Probably it was from this time infanticide received its death 
blow — in Yoruba Proper at least. It is said to hnger still at Akure 
and the adjacent regions, but as a rule, in ancient times, whatever 
the custom set or discountenanced at the Metropohs, the effect 
thereof was rapidly felt all over the country. 

The Ondos are sometimes classed among the Ekitis but that is 
hardly correct ; although lying at the border of the Ekitis, they 
are really a mixture of Qyos and Idokos, and their sympathy is 
with all. 

Chapter III 

The Yorubas originally were entirely pagans. Mohammedanism 
which many now profess was introduced only since the close of 
the eighteenth century. They, however, believe in the existence 
of an Almighty God, him they term Olorun, i.e., Lord of Heaven. 

They acknowledge Him, Maker of heaven and earth, but too 
exalted to concern Himself directly with men and their affairs, 
hence they admit the existence of many gods as intermediaries, 
and these they term Orisas. 

We may note here that the term Olorun is appUed to God alone 
and is never used in the plural to denote Orisas. Kings and the 
great ones on earth may sometimes be termed Orisas (gods) 
by way of eulogy, we are also familiar with the common expression, 
" Oyinbo ekeji Orisa " i.e., white men are next to the -gods (i.e 
in their powers) ; but the term Olorun is reserved for the Great God 

They also beheve in a future state, hence the worship of the dead, 
and invocation of spirits as observed in the Egugun festival, a 
festival in which masked individuals personate dead relatives. 

They have a belief also in a future judgment as may be inferred 
from the tollowing adage, " Ohungbogbo ti a se I'aiye, li a o 
de idena Orun ka " (Whatever we do on earth we shall give an 
account thereof at the portals of heaven). 

They also believe in the doctrine of metempsychosis, or trans- 
migration of souls, hence they affirm that after a period of time, 
deceased parents are born again into the family of their surviving 
children. It is from this notion that some children are named 
" Babatunde," i.e., father comes again. " Yetunde," i.e., mother 
comes again. 

Objects of Worship 

I, TheKori. — Originally, the Kori was the only object of worship. 
It consists of the hard shells of the palm nut strung into beads, 
and made to hang from the neck to the knees. In modern times 
it is no longer regarded as an object of worship by adults, but little 
children go about with it to the market places begging for alms. 
The object of worship is then worn by one of their number, who 
goes before, his companions following behind him, shouting the 



praises of the ancient god Kori. In this way they parade the 
market places, and sellers before whom they halt to sing, make 
them presents of money (cowries) or whatever they may happen to 
be seUing, usually articles of food. Thus the httle children 
perpetuate the memory and worship of this deity, hence the ditty : 

Iba ma si ewe, Kori a ku o." 
(But for Httle children Kori had perished). 

In later times heroes are venerated and deified, of these Sango, 
Oya, Orisa Oko, may be mentioned as the chief. The origin of 
their worship will be noted hereafter. 

2. Orisala. — To Orisala are ascribed creative powers. He is 
regarded as a co-worker with Olorun. Man is supposed to have 
been made by God in a lump, and shaped as he is by Orisala. Its 
votaries are distinguished by white beads worn round the neck, 
and by their using only white dresses. They are forbidden the 
use of palm wine. Sacrifices offered by them are not to be salted. 
Albinoes, dwarfs, the lame, hunchbacks, and all deformed persons 
generally are regarded as sacred to this god ; hence they are 
designated " Eni Orisa" (belonging to the god), being regarded as 
specially made so by him. 

Orisala is the common name of the god known and worshipped 
by different townships under different appellations, e.g., it is 
called Orisa Oluofin at Iwofin ; Orisako at Oko ; Orisakire at Ikire ; 
Orisagiyan at Ejigbo ; Orisaeguin at Eguin ; Orisarowu at Owu 
Orisajaye at Ijaye ; and Obatala at Oba. 

3. Ori. — The Ori (head) is the universal household deity 
worshipped by both sexes as the god of fate. It is believed that 
good or ill fortune attends one, according to the will or decree of 
this god ; and hence it is propitiated in order that good luck might 
be the share of its votary. The representing image is 41 cowries 
strung together in the shape of a crown. This is secreted in a 
large coffer, the Hd of which is of the same form and material. 
It is called "He Ori" (Ori's house), and in size is as large as the owner 
can afford to make it. Some usually contain as much as 6 heads 
(12,000) of cowries, and the manufacturer who is generally a worker 
in leather receives as his pay the same amount of cowries as is 
used in the article manufactured. 

As the Kori is the children's god so the Ori is exclusively 
worshipped by the adults. After the death of its owner, the image 
of Ori with the coffer is destroyed, and the cowries spent. 

4. Ogun. — This is the god of war, and all instruments made of 
iron are consecrated to it, hence Ogun is the blacksmiths' god. 
The representing image is the silk cotton tree specially planted, 


beneath which is placed a piece of granite on which palm oil is 
poured and the blood of slain animals — generally a dog. 

5. Esu or Eleghara. — Satan, the Evil One, the author of all 
evil is often and specially propitiated. Offerings are made to it. 
The representing image is a rough lateritic stone upon which 
libations of palm oil are poured. It is superstitiously believed that 
the vengeance of this god could be successfully invoked upon an 
offender by the name of the person being called before the image 
while nut oil is being poured on it. The image of a man, with a 
horn on its head curving backwards, carved in wood and orna- 
mented with cowries, is often carried by its devotees to beg with 
on pubUc highways. Passers-by who are so disposed may give 
each a cowry or two, or handfuls of corn, beans, or any product 
of the field at hand, as he or she may choose. This curved headed 
figure is called " Ogo Eliggbara "—the devil's club. 

6. Sgpona or the small pox is generally believed to be one of 
the demons by which this lower world is infested, and has its special 
devotees. The representing image is a broom- made from the 
branches of the bamboo palm, stripped of its leaves, and besmeared 
with camwood. To invoke its vengeance parched corn or beniseed 
is usually thrown hot upon the image, and then it is beUeved the 
epidemic will spread,. But they certainly have a more direct 
means of spreading the disease. 

Persons dying of this plague are buried only by the devotees of 
this god, who account it as their special right to bury such corpses, 
being victims of the vengeance of their god. For a propitiation, 
they often demand from the relatives of the victims 5 head {i.e., 
10,000) of cowries, a tortoise, a snail, a fowl, a pigeon, a goat, an 
armadillo, a ground pig, camwood, shea butter, a quantity of 
palm oil, two kinds of beads, green and yellow, called respectively 
Otutu and Opon, together with all the effects of the deceased, 
which are regarded as theirs by legitimate right. The corpse is 
buried either in the bush, or by the side of a river. 

The following anecdote was related by a devotee. He was 
confirmed — said he — in his belief in the existence of the gods and as 
helpers in the government of the world from the following incident. 
Said he, " A young man once fell into a swoon, and having revived, 
he related the vision which he had seen. He said he saw the Great 
God sitting on a throne, covered with a flowing garment, attended 
on His right and left by Orisala and Ifa his counsellors : behind 
him was a pit into which the condemned were cast. Ogun and 
Sopona were ministers of his vengeance to execute justice upon 
offenders. Ogun armed with 4,000 swords (or daggers) went out 
daily to slay victims, his food being the blood of the slain. Sopona 



also had 4,000 viols hung about his body. His also was the work 
of destruction as he disappeared immediately for another victim 
after presenting one. Sango also appeared, a mighty destroyer 
who, when about to set forth on his journey to earth, used to be 
cautioned by both Orisala and If a to deal gently with their 
respective worshippers." 

It is with such stories as this that the credulity of the simple folk 
is usually wrought upon with a view to strengthen their behef in 
the so-called gods. 

7. Egugnn. The period when the worship of spirits or the 
souls of departed relatives was introduced into the Yoruba country 
will be noted in a future chapter. The representing forms are 
human beings of the exact height and figure of the deceased, covered 
from head to foot with cloths similar to those in which the said 
deceased was known to have been buried, completely masked and 
speaking with an unnatural tone of voice. This feigned voice is 
said to be in imitation of that of a species of monkey called Ijimere. 
That animal is regarded with superstitious reverence, the power 
of walking erect and talking being ascribed to it and is esteemed 
a clever physician. Some professed " medicine men " usually 
tame and keep one of these creatures, and pretend to receive 
instructions and inspirations from it. 

In these later times, the Egiigun worship has become a national 
religious institution, and its anniversaries are celebrated with 
grand festivities. The mysteries connected with it are held 
sacred and inviolable, and although little boys of 5 or 6 years of 
age are often initiated, yet no woman may know these mysteries 
on pain of death. 

The dress of the Egugun consists of cloths of various colours 
or the feathers of- different kinds of birds, or the skins of different 
animals. The whole body from head to foot is concealed from view ; 
the Egugun seeing only from the meshes of a species of network 
covering the face, and speaking in a sepulchral tone ot voice. The 
women believe (or rather feign to believe) that the Eguguns came 
from the spirit world. An Egiigun (the Agan) is the executor of 
women accused of witchcraft, and of those who are proved guilty 
ot such crimes as murder, incendiarism, etc. 

The high priest of the Egiigun is called the Alagb&, and next 
to him is the Alaran, and after this the Esorun, and then the 
Akere whose insignia of office are a bundle of Atori whips. These 
officials are higher in rank than all the Eguguns under the mask, 
and hence the common saying : — " Egugun baba Alagba, Alagba 
baba Egiigun " (The Egiigun is the father of the Alagba, the 
Alagba the father of the Egugun). 


It is considered a crime to touch an Egugun dress in public, 
and disrespectful to pass him by with the head uncovered. Even 
a boy Egugun is considered worthy of being honoured by his 
(supposed) surviving parents, he salutes them as elderly people 
would do, and promises the bestowal of gifts on the family. 

In every town there are several Alagbas or head priests of Egiigun 
out of them a president is elected, at whose house all the others 
meet on special occasions. 

The individual who fills the highest rank in the Egugun worship 
is the Alapini, one of the seven great noble men of Oyo (the Oyo 
Mesi). He resides always in the royal city of Oyo. There can 
be but one Alapini at a time, and by virtue of his office he must be 
a monorchis. Thus qualified, he shares with the eunuchs in all 
their privileges, and at the same time enjoys the lion's share in the 
Egugun department. 

In a large town, every quarter has its own Alagba in whose 
house a special apartment is dedicated to the Egugun worship, 
where all the Egugun dress in that part of the town are kept until 
required for use on special occasions or at the annual festivals. 

Eguguns are generally worshipped with a kind of cake made 
of beans and palm oil (Olele) in the month of February, after the 
beans harvest in January ; and the Egugun anniversary is usually 
held in the month of May or Jane. These festivals are lucky 
times for the men, for on these occasions, the women are made to 
spend largely to feast " deceased relatives," while the food is 
consumed by the men in the Alagba' s department. The number 
of fowls and goats killed and devoured at such times is simply 
prodigious. Such is the force of habit engendered by blind 
superstition, that although in reality the women are no longer 
deceived, as regards these alleged visits of their dear departed, 
yet they make their offerings with cheerfulness, and with a sure 
expectation of blessings. 

It has already been noted above that the Yorubas believe in a 
future state. It cannot be considered too far fetched to say that 
this periodical re-appearance of the dead as symbohzed in the 
Egugun " mystery " is an embodiment of the idea of the Resur- 
rection, although that doctrine as taught by Christianity cannot 
be said to be identical with what they hold and practise ; but this 
festival is usually observed with all the zeal and fervour with which 
Christians celebrate the Christmas and Paschal festivals. 

This anniversary is the time of reunion among absent friends 
and relatives. The town then puts on its best appearance, the 
streets are everywhere cleaned and put under repairs, and the 
citizens appear abroad in their holiday dress. 


The celebration is usually preceded on the eve of the festival by a 
vigil termed in Yoruba " Ikunle " or the kneeling, because the 
whole night is spent in kneeHng and praying in the grove set apart 
for Egugun worship, invoking the blessings and the aid of the 
departed parent. The blood of fowls and animals offered in 
sacrifice is also poured on the graves of the ancestors. 

On the morning of the festival the whole of the Eguguns, 
including all the principal forms accompanied by the Alagbas 
and minor priests form a procession to the residence of the chief 
ruler of the town ; they there receive the homage of the chief, 
and in turn give him and the other chiefs and the whole town their 
blessings ; they then spend about three hours doing honours 
to the chief, playing and dancing to theii* peculiar music ; and after 
receiving presents they disperse to continue the play all over the 
town, each confining himself more or less to his own quarter of the 

The festival is continued for seven days, and on the eighth day, 
there is another gathering at the Chief Alagba's and the festivities 
are brought to a close with games, sports, and a display of magic 

For three weeks to a month, lesser Eguguns may still be seen 
making their appearance ; these as a rule, belong to poorer districts 
which weie backward in their preparations for the annual feast. 
Everyone, however, still keeps to the same rule of seven days' 
appearance and disappearing likewise on the eighth day after a 
grand display. 

The Adamuorisa and the Gelede. 

In imitation of the Eguguns, some littoral tribes adopt similar 
forms of representation of their departed dead ; such are the 
Adamuorisa among the Aworis, and the Gelede among the Egbado 

The Adamuorisa is sometimes called Eyg ; the former term 
signifies the god with the nasal twang — on account of the arti- 
ficial voice they affect, and the latter, Eyg, simply means Oyg 
being an imitation or parody of the Oyg system of Egugun worship. 

But whereas the Egiiguns appear annually, at a fixed period of 
the year, viz. at the feast of the first fruits in June, these are used 
as a part of the funeral obsequies of a chieftain, or well-to-do citizen 
who can afford a carnival in connection with his funeral rites. The 
effigy of the departed is set up in state in the house, the immediate 
relatives are dressed in their very best, and all hold horse-tails in 
their hands to dance with. The play lasts for one day only and 
generally ends with a big feast. 


The Geledg is also a human being in a mask the head of which 
is exquisitely carved in wood, and made to represent that of a 
man or woman with all their tribal marks and sometimes any of 
the lower animals such as the alligator. They are more generally 
of a female form, with carvings of plaited haii, and magnificent 
busts ; they are elaborately or fantasticall}^ dressed, bedecked 
with a wealth of female ornaments of native manufacture, such as 
ear-rings, bangles, beads, etc., with jingles on their ankles ; they 
dance and move majestically, treading heavily to the rhythmic 
sound of drums and other musical instruments. 

They are much besmired with chalk and camwood, presenting 
rather a frightful (if harmless) appearance. 

8. Orb. The Oro system is also said by some to have been 
borrowed from the red monkey called tjimerh. It consists of a 
fiat piece of iron or stick, with a long string, attached to a pole. 
This when whirled swiftly in the air produces a shrill sound which 
is called " Aja Oro" (Oro's dog). A larger kind whirled with 
the hand gives a deep bass tone. This is the voice of the Oro 
himself. Amongst the Ijebus and the Egbas, Oro is much more 
sacred and important than the Egiigun, and is the executor of 
criminals. The Egbas pay homage also to another god called 
Ologboijeun, who is personated by a man under a mask with a 
drawn sword in his hand. 

Other gods of the same class are the Igis (trees) also personified 
by human beings, masked and carrying an image on the head. 
Some of these are male figures with branching horns, on which 
are carved figures of monkeys, snakes and other animals. Others 
are female figures which are called Efun-gba-roku. 

Amongst the Oyos (Yorubas Proper) the people of Iseyin 
and Jabata are the principal Oro worshippers. Seven days are 
set apart annually for its worship. Except for a few hours during 
which they are permitted to procure provisions, women are kept 
indoors throughout the day. On the seventh day even this small 
indulgence is not allowed, but they are rigidly shut up the entire 
day. It is certain death for any one of them to be found without 
and this penalty is exacted whatever may be the title, or wealth, 
or position of respectability of any woman who ventures to have 
a peep at the Oro. 

9. tfa. — This is the great consulting oracle in the Yoruba country 
and was introduced at a late period by King Onigbogi, who was 
said to have been dethroned for having done so. 

Another tradition says it was introduced into the Yoruba country 

by one Setilu, native of the Nupe country, who was born blind. 

This was about the period of the Mohammedan invasion. 


Setilu's parents regretting their misfortune in having a Wind son, 
were at first of doubtful mind as to what course they should 
pursue, whether to kill the child, or spare its life to become a burden 
on the family. Parental feehngs decided them to spare the child. 
It grew up a peculiar child, and the parents were astonished at his 
extraordinary powers of divination. At the early age of 5, he 
began to excite their wonder and curiosity by foretelling who 
would pay them a visit in the course of the day and with what 
object. As he advanced in age, he began to practise sorcery and 
medicine. At the commencement of his practice, he used 16 small 
pebbles and imposed successfully upon the credulity of those who 
flocked to him in their distress and anguish for consultation. From 
this source, he earned a comfortable liveUhood. Finding that the 
adherents were fast becoming Setilu's followers, and that even 
respectable priests did not escape the general contagion, the 
Mohammedans resolved to expel Setilu out of the country. This 
being effected, Setilu crossed the river Niger and went to Benin, 
staying for a while at a place called OwQ, thence to Ado. Subse- 
quently he migrated to He Ife, and finding that place more suitable 
for practising his art, he resolved to make it his permanent residence. 
He soon became famous there also, and his performances so 
impressed the people, and the reliance placed in him was so 
absolute, that he had little difficulty in persuading them to abolish 
the tribal marks on their faces, such marks of distinction not being 
practised in Nupe, Setilu's own country. 

In process of time palm nuts, pieces of iron and ivory balls 
were successively used instead of pebbles. At the present day, 
palm nuts only are used as they are considered more easily pro- 
pitiated, the others reqairing costly sacrifices and even human 

Setilu initiated several of his followers in the mysteries of 
Ifa worship, and it has gradually become the consulting oracle 
of the whole Yoruba nation. In order to become an Ifa priest, 
a long course of serious study is necessary. To consult Ifa, in the 
more common and ordinary way, 16 palm nuts are to be shaken 
together in the hollow of both hands, whilst certain marks are 
traced with the index linger on a flat bowl dusted with yam flour, 
or powdered camwood. Each mark suggests to the consulting 
priest the heroic deeds of some fabulous heroes, which he duly 
recounts, and so he goes on with the marks in order, until he hits 
upon certain words or phrases which appear to bear upon the matter 
of the applicant before him. Very often answers are given much 
after the rnanner of the ancient oracle at Delphi. 

Ifa was really met in this country by the Yorubas, for Oduduwa 


met Setilu at He Ife, but the worship of it was officially recog- 
nized by King Ofiran son of Onigbogi. 

10. Sango. — Sango was the fourth King of the Yorubas, and 
was deified by his friends after his death. Sango ruled over all the 
Yorubas including Benin, the Popos and Dahomey, for the worship 
of him has continued in all these countries to this day. 

It is related of him, that being a tyrant he was dethroned by his 
people, and expelled the country. Finding himself deserted not 
only by his friends, but also by his beloved wife Oya, he committed 
suicide at a place called Koso. His tragic end became a proverb 
and a by-word, and his faithless friends were ashamed on account 
of the taunts cast upon the name and fame of the unfortunate 
King. To atone for their base action in deserting him, as well as 
to avenge the insults on his memory they went to the Bariba 
country to study the art of charm-making, and also the process 
of attracting lightning upon their enemies' houses. 

On their return home they put to practice with a vengeance the 
lessons they had learnt. From the too frequent conflagrations 
which were taking place, as well as deaths from lightning strokes, 
suspicions were aroused, and enquiries were set on foot. Then 
Sango's friends said that the catastrophe was attributable to the 
late King taking vengeance on his enemies on account of the 
indignities they had heaped upon his memory. Being appealed 
to, to propitiate the offended King in order that he may stay his 
vengeance upon the land, his friends offered sacrifices to him as 
god, and hence these intercessors became the " Mogba " (advocate) 
and priests of Sango ; and to this day their descendants hold the 
same office. 

The emblems of worship representing Sango are certain smooth 
stones shaped like an axe head commonly taken for thunder bolts. 

They are supposed to be hurled down from the heavens when the 
god would kill any one who has incurred his displeasure. 

The following is the process to be gone through at the initiation 
of any one into the mysteries of Sango worship : — The priests 
demand a ram, a water bird called Osin, a tortoise, a snail, an 
armadillo, a large rat called Okete, a toad, a tadpole, the Otutu 
and Opon beads, the red tail of a parrot, a guinea fowl, shea butter, 
salt, palm oil, the flesh of an elephant, venison, the ihih (greens) 
the leaves of the evergreens called Etiponola, Odudun, and iperegun 
tree ; a small knife called " abe-esu " (the devil's razor) a white 
country cloth of lo breadths, a mat called fafa (mats made of the 
pith of bamboo palm branches) together with 7 heads of cowries 
(14,000 cowry shells) as carriage fee. 
The leaves are bruised in a bowl of water, and with the infusion 


the candidate is to purify himself. He is then seated on a mortar 
and shaved. The birds and tortoise are killed and their hearts 
taken out, and these with slices of the flesh of all the animals 
above-mentioned are pounded together with the evergreens, 
and a ball is made of the compound. The candidate now submits 
to incisions on his shaven head and the ball of pounded articles 
is rubbed into the wounds. The neophyte now becomes a recog- 
nised devotee of Sango. 

Important ceremonies are performed when a house is struck 
by lightning. The inmates are not allowed to sleep in any house,, 
but in booths or blacksmith's shops, until the so-called thunder- 
bolt is dug up and removed from the premises. A garland of palm 
leaves is generally hung up at the entrance of the devoted house to 
forbid any but Sango priests to enter. A watchman is kept on 
the premises at the expense of the sufferers from the divine visita- 
tion, and it is the duty of this man to ward off trespassers from 
what is now regarded as sacred ground, till the ceremonies shall 
have been performed, and the offended god appeased. With the 
sole exception of the great King, the AlAfin of Ovo, all the pro- 
vincial kings and ruling chiefs in whose town the catastrophe 
happens to take place, are bound to repair to the spot to do 
homage to Sango, who is said to pay a visit to earth. 

Such occasions are greatly prized by the worshippers who swarm 
to the place in numbers with their Bayani, a sort of crown made of 
cowries, and they are all to be entertained at the expense of the 
sufferers and also by the neighbours. 

The king or chief coming to pay his respects to Sango is to 
receive ii heads of cowries, a goat, and a slave in three payments. 

In the case of a poor house, a member of the family is seized 
if not quietly given up, and has to be ransomed at a considerable 
sum, which must be paid and the above mentioned articles pro- 
cured, before the ceremony can be performed. Then all being ready 
the priests having now assembled, the tete (greens) etipgnQla, 
together with the evergreens Odudun and peregun are bruised in 
a bowl of water, and with this they purify themselves before 
entering the house. They are preceded by one holding an iron 
instrument (the divining rod) with which a search is made for the 
spot where the bolt is believed to have entered the ground. After 
some pretence they arrive at a spot in which one of their number 
had previously buried one of these sharp stones. Here the ground 
is ordered to be dug, with a show of solemnity, and, of course, the 
thunder-bolt is found and exhumed with well-sustained marks of 
piety and reverence. 

Thus the common people are deceived and imposed upon, and 


very few besides the priests are aware of the tricks systematically 
played upon their credulity. 

The concluding ceremony stiU bears hardly on the poor sufferers. 
They are required to give over a son to the priests to be initiated 
in the mysteries of the cult, and further they are to pay something 
in order to obtain permission to rebuild their houses. Hence an 
accident of this kind means great calamity to any one, and heavy 
debts are incurred. The unfortunate sufferers already deprived 
of their all (much or little) by this sudden stroke of ill-fortune are 
often obliged to put their children to service in order to raise 
money sufficient to meet the demands of the greedy worshippers 
of this heartless god. The fines obtained are shared between the 
king or head chief, and the town authorities ; but the articles 
purchased for the performance of the ceremonies are perquisites 
which are appropriated by the priests alone. 

This " descent of Sango " on earth is never done but with a view 
to show his displeasure on persons who are guilty of perjury 
and lies. The town for a while is as it were placed under an 
interdict, and during that brief period the worshippers of the god 
are allowed to seize with impunity whatever they can come at in 
the public streets in the vicinity of the catastrophe, such as 
sheep, goats, poultry and things of greater oi less value. 

Sango worshippers are forbidden to touch the large white beans 
called Sese, because it is used for counteracting the evil effects 
of the agencies employed in attracting lightning on people's 

II. Qya. This was the name of Sango's faithful and beloved 
wife. She alone of all his wives accompanied him in his flight 
towards the Tapa (Nupe) country his maternal home. But courage 
failed her at a place called Ira, her native town which she was 
never to see any more should love for her husband prevail to 
make her resolve to share with him in his destiny. B ut the prospect 
of making her home among entire strangers in a strange land among 
a people speaking a strange tongue, and of leaving parents and 
home for ever, so overpowered her that she hesitated to proceed. 

As she could not for very shame return to Oyq she remained at 
Ira ; and hearing that her husband had committed suicide, 
she summed up sufficient courage to follow his example. 

She also was deified. The river Niger is sacred to her, and 
hence that river is called all over Yoruba land Odo Oya after 
her name. As thunder and lightning are attributed to Sango 
so tornado and violent thunderstorms, rending trees and levelling 
high towers and houses are attributed to Oya. They signify her 


Deified heroes and heroines are never spoken of as dead, but as 
having disappeared. Thus the saying : — 

" Oya wole ni ile Ira 
Sango wgle ni Koso." 
(Oya disappeared in the town of Ira 
Sango disappeared at Koso). 

Two naked swords and the horns of a buffalo are the representa- 
tive image of Oya. Her followers are forbidden to touch mutton, 
they are distinguished by a particular kind of red beads which are 
always tied round their necks. 

12. Erinle. Erinle was originally a hunter, native of Ajagbusi. 
He was poor and unmarried. Having no home, he dwelt in a booth 
erected under a large gbinghin tree by the river side, whence he 
made his expeditions to shoot monkeys for sale by which he earned 
his livelihood. He is said to have been accidentally swept down 
the river by a strong current and was drowned. A river flowing 
by the present town of Ilobu, which empties itself into the Osun 
river was named after him. The representing image consists of 
black smooth stones from that river, and an image of iron sm- 
mounted by the figure of a bird. The followers are distinguished 
by wearing a chain of iron or brass round their necks, and bracelets 
of the same material. 

13. Orisa Oko. Orisa Oko was also a hunter, a native of 
Irawo. He used to entrap guinea fowls in nets set in the farm of 
one Ogunjeiisowe, a wealthy farmer, and bj^ this means he gained 
his livelihood. He kept a dog and a fife, and on several occasions 
when lost in the bush his whereabouts were discovered by his dog 
at the sound of the fife. He lived to a good old age, and when 
infirm and unable to pursue his calling as a hunter, he practised 
soothsaying and numbers flocked to him. 

It may be observed that in countries where letters are not known 
and the language not reduced to writing the aged are the reposi- 
tories of wisdom and knowledge, hence the younger generation 
regard their seniors as guides and prophets, and their vast stores 
of experience serve as keys to unlock many a doubtful point in 
the affairs of the young. The latter used to regard the foresight 
displayed by the elders as a marvel ; it is easy, therefore to under- 
stand how it came about that extraordinary powers are attributed 
to them. It is only thus that one can account in a way for the 
success of those who are often styled " medicine men " " sorcerers " 
" soothsayers," etc. 

As witchcraft was punished with death, persons accused of it 
were taken to Orisa Oko for trial. He was accustomed to lead 


the accused to a cave supposed to be inhabited by a demon called 
Polo. In this cave Orisa Oko practised his sorcery. In cases 
where an accused was innocent, he would return with him ; if 
otherwise, then his head is thrown out to those awaiting a decision. 
Polo the demon executed the guilty. The fame of Orisa Oko 
spread and numbers resorted to him in taking oaths. His oracle 
was regarded as infaUible, and appeals to him were final. 

After his death, his followers practised his methods taking 
the precaution to secrete a strong man in the cave to act the part 
of the supposed Polo. 

But a striking exposure soon brought the practice into disrepute, 
and it was aboHshed. It happened thus. A man was accused 
and as usual, was taken to the cave ; but he proved to be a far 
stronger man than the supposed Polo, and the result was that he 
killed the counterfeit demon, and threw his head out of the cave 
to those who were eagerly waiting for the decision of the god. 

The representing image is a fife made of ivory or a flat piece of 
iron 5 or 6ft. in length similar to what is given as a sign of 
acquittal to those in whose favour the god had decided. 

The Erugun mystery is of a kind similar to that of the Orisa Oko 
worship. It also was practised in a cave by the side of a mount 
called the Erugun mount. 

The above are the principal gods worshipped by the Yorubas. 
There are besides many inferior divinities to whom offerings 
are made. In fact the whole number of gods and goddesses 
acknowledged is reckoned at 401. Propitiatory sacrifices are 
also offered to whatever in nature is awe inspiring or magnificent 
such as the Ocean, huge rocks, tall trees, and high mountains. To 
the last named especially offerings are made for the procreation 
of children. 

Mohammedanism as was observed above, was introduced 
towards the close of the eighteenth century ; it numbered very 
few adherents up to the time when the Fulanis by stratagem, 
seized Ilgrin and overran the northern provinces, as we shall 
find related in the second part of this history. The towns in 
the plain were swept with fire and the sword, with the alternative 
of the acceptance of the Koran, and submission to the Fulanis ; 
the southward progress of the conquerors, however, was stopped 
at Osogbo, where the Ibadans met and crushed them, and in the 
direction of the Ijesa and Ekiti provinces, the forests and mountain 
fastnesses offered insurmountable obstacles to these intrepid 
horsemen, who could neither fight on foot nor engage in a bush 
warfare ; hence Mohammedanism prevailed chiefly in the north, 
but latterly it spread southwards by peaceful means, chiefly by 


traders and itinerant mendicant preachers. It is now embraced 
by thousands, as it appears to be a superior form of rehgion to the 
paganism of their ancestors. 

Christianity. Christianity was introduced by the Church 
Missionary Society in 1843, first into Abeokuta via Badagry, 
and from thence to Ibadan in May 1851, and also to Ijaye. On 
January 10, 1852, the C. M.S. removed their base from Badagry 
to Lagos. From Abeokuta, mission stations were planted at the 
Oke Ogun and Egbado districts, from Ibadan missions were planted 
at Iwo, Modakeke, Ife, Osogbo and Ilesa. Missions were established 
also at Oyo and Ogbomoso before the Ijaye war broke out in i860, 
which put a stop to the progress of missions all over the country. 
The intertribal wars which followed and which convulsed the 
greater part of the country, and devastated large areas, prevented 
its growth northwards, but at Abeokuta where it was first planted, 
it grew so rapidly that at the time of the British occupation, 
Christian adherents could be numbered by thousands ; schools 
had been established, and evangelistic work among the surrounding 
kindred tribes systematically undertaken and was being vigorously 
carried on. 

The Bible in the vernacular was the most potent factor in the 
spread of the religion. The sincerity of the converts, and the 
firm hold the religion has attained, have been fully tested by 
several bloody persecutions endured for the faith, through which 
they came out triumphant. 

The forces organized for home defence chiefly against the 
Dahomian attacks contained a compact body of Christians under 
their own captain, the esprit de corps existing among them, and the 
invariable success which always attended their arms, won for them 
the respect and admiration, of their pagan rulers and countrymen. 
This contributed not a little to the cessation of persecutions and the 
increase of their number. 

The establishment of the British protectorate saw the mission, 
established at Ijebu, where it has since been spreading phenomenally 
and also in the Ijesa and Ekiti provinces. It is self propagating 
by means of the people learning to read the Bible in their own 
tongue. To God be the praise. 

Chapter IV 


The entire Yoruba country has never been thoroughly organized 
into one complete government in a modern sense. The sj^stem that 
prevails is that known as the Feudal, the remoter portions have 
always lived more or less in a state of semi-independence, whilst 
loosely acknowledging an over -lord. The king of Benin was one 
of the first to be indepei dent of the central government, and was 
even better known to foreigners who frequented his ports in early 
times, and who knew nothing of his over-lord in the then unexplored 
and unknown interior. 

Yoruba Proper, however, was completely organized, and the 
descriptions here given refer chiefly to it. With some variations 
most of the smaller governments were generally modelled after it, 
but in a much simpler form, and solely in their domestic affairs ; 
foreign relations so far as then obtained, before the period of the 
revolution were entirely in the hands of the central government 
at Oyo (Eyeo or Katunga). It should be remembered that the 
coast tribes were of much less importance then than now, both 
in population and in intelhgence ; light and civilization with the 
Yorubas came from the north with which they have always 
retained connection through the Arabs and Fulanis. The centre of 
Hfe and activity, of large populations and industry was therefore 
in the interior, whilst the coast tribes were scanty in number, 
ignorant and degraded not only from their distance from the 
centre of light, but also through their demoralizing intercourse 
with Europeans, and the transactions connected with the oversea 
slave trade. 

This state of things has been somewhat reversed since the latter 
half of the XlXth century, by the suppression of the slave-trade, 
and the substitution therefor of legitimate trade and commerce : 
and more especially through the labours of the missionaries who 
entered the country about the same time as the springing up into 
being of the modern towns of Lagos, Abeokuta, and Ibadan, 
through which western light and civiUzation beam into the interior. 

The government of Yoruba Proper is an absolute monarchy ; 
the King is more dreaded than even the gods. The office is 
hereditary in the same family, but not necessarily from father to 
son-. The King is usually elected by a body of noblemen known 
as Qyo Mesi, the seven principal councillors of state. 



The vassal or provincial kings and ruling princes were 1060 
at the time of the greatest prosperity of the empire which then 
included the Popos, Dahomey, and parts of Ashanti, with portions 
of the Tap^s and Baribas. 

The word " king " as generally used in this country includes 
all more or less distinguished chiefs, who stand at the head of a 
clan, or one who is the ruler of an important district or province, 
especially those who can trace their descent from the founder, 
or from one of the great leaders or heroes who settled with him in 
this country. They are of different grades, corresponding some- 
what to the different orders of the English peerage (dukes, 
marquises, eails, viscounts and barons), and their order of rank is 
well-known among themselves. The Onikoyi as head of the 
Ekicn Osi 01 metropohtan province was the first of these " kings " 
and he it was who used to head them all to Oyo once a j'ear to pay 
homage to the AlAfin or King of the Yorubas. 

The AlAfin 

The AlAfin is the supreme head of all the kings and princes 
of the Yoruba nation, as he is the direct lineal descendant and 
successor of the reputed founder of the nation. The succession as 
above said is by election from amongst the members of the royal 
family, of the one considered as the most worthy, age and nearness 
to the throne being taken into consideration. It might be 
mentioned also in passing that the feelings and acceptance of 
the denizens of the harem towards the king-elect are often 
privately ascertained and assured of previously. 

In the earliest days, the eldest son naturally succeeded the father, 
and in order to be educated in all the duties of the kingship which 
must one day devolve upon him, he was often associated more or 
less with the father in performing important duties and thereby 
he often performedroyal functions, and thus gradually he practically 
reigned with his father under the title of Aremo (the heir appaient) 
having his own official residence near the palace ; but as the age 
grew corrupt, the Aremo often exercised sway quite as much as or 
more than the King himself, especially in the course of a long reign, 
when age has rendered the monarch feeble. They had equal powers 
of life and death over the King's subjects, and there are some 
cases on record of the Aremo being strongly suspected of termin- 
ating the father's Hfe, in order to attain full powers at once. It 
was therefore made a law and part of the constitution that as the 
Aremo reigned with his father, he must also die with him. 
This law had the effect at any rate of checking parricide. It 
continued to take effect up to the last century when (in 1858) 


it was repealed by Atiba one of the later Kings in favour of his 
Aremq Adelu. The Aremo may now succeed if found worthy, 
but he must be elected in the usual way ; but if passed over or 
rejected by the king-makers he must leave the city and resort 
to a private retirement in the provinces. This however, is not 
really obhgatory, but as he must be superseded in his office, 
such a course is inevitable, unless he chooses of his own accord 
to die with the father. 

The choice may sometimes fall upon one of the poorer princes, 
in the quiet pursuit of his trade, with no aspiration after the 
throne ; such a one is sent for, and unnecessarily ill-used for the 
last time to his own surprise ; this was done probably for the 
purpose of testing his temper and spirit. He may not be aware 
of the intentions of the Oyo Mesi until he is being admonished 
by them as to the duties and responsibilities of the exalted position 
he is soon to fill. 

The nominators are three titled members of the royal family, 
viz., the Ona-Isokun, the Ona-Aka, and the Omo-Ola, uncles 
or cousins of the King, but generally entitled the " King's fathers." 
These have to submit or suggest the names to the noblemen for 
election, but the Basorun's voice is paramount to accept or to 

Curious and elaborate ceremonies precede the actual accession 
to the throne. After all arrangements have been made, the 
ceremonies begin by a sacrifice brought from the house of the 
Ona-Isokun by a body of men called Omg-ninari ; these belong 
to a family specially concerned in carrying out all menial duties 
connected with the offering of sacrifices and in waiting upon the 
King and the priests. As soon as they enter the house where 
the King-elect is, he is called out, and he has to stand up with an 
attendant by his side. He is touched on the chest, and on the 
right and left shoulders with the bowl of sacrifice, the attendant 
in the mean time uttering some form of words. This is the signal 
that he has been called to the throne. On the evening of the same 
day, he is conducted quietly into the house of the Ona-Isokun 
where he spends the first night. In order to avoid the crowd, the 
attention of the populace is usually diverted by a procession of the 
Kings' slaves and others with much noise and ado, as if escorting 
him, whilst the king-elect accompanied by the Aregbe'di, a titled 
eunuch, and a few of the Omo-ni-nari come up quietly a long way 

At the Ona-Isokun' s house, he is attended solely by the Omo- 
ni-nari. He is admonished and advised by those who stand to 
him in place of a father. Some ceremonies of purification are gone 


through, propitiatory sacrifices are again offered which are carried 
to various quarters of the city by the Onto-ni-nari. 

The next night he passes at the house* of the Otun-Iwefa (the 
next in rank to the chief of the eunuchs). This official being a 
priest of Sango, it is probable that the king-elect spends the night 
with him in order to be initiated into the sacerdotal part of his 
office, the Alafin having as much spiritual as well as secular 
work to perform, being at once King and Priest to his people ; 
and probably' he learns there also the usages and doings of the 
huge population in the inner precincts of the palace with which 
the eunuchs are quite conversant. After this, he is conducted 
into one of the chambers in the Outer Court of the palace (Omo ile) 
where he resides for three months, the period of mourning, until 
his coronation. 

The main gateway to the palace being closed at the demise of 
the King, a private opening is made for him in the outer wall 
through which he goes in and out of his temporary residence. 
During this time he remains strictly in private, learning and 
practising the style and deportment of a King, and the details of 
the important duties and functions of his office. During this period 
he is dressed in black, and is entitled to use a " cap of state" 
called " Ori-k6-gbe-ofo." (The head may not remain uncovered). 

The affairs of state are at this time conducted by the Basorun. 

The Coronation 

The coronation takes place at the end of three months, really 
at the third appearance of the new moon after the late King's 
death. The date is generally so fixed as to have it if possible 
before the next great festival. It is attended with a great public 
demonstration. It is a gala day in which the whole city appears 
in holiday dress. Visitors from the provinces and representatives 
of neighbouring states also flock into the city in numbers. 

This day is generally known as " The King's visit to the BarA." 
It is the first but most important act of the ceremonies. 

The Bara or royal mausoleum is a consecrated building in 
the outskirts of the city, under the care of a high-priestess named 
Iyamode ; there the Kings were formally crowned, and there 
buried. The King enters it but once in his lifetime, and that is 

^ Tradition says that in the early times while the King -elect 
is in the Otun'efa's house among other dishes brought to 
him to partake of is one prepared from the heart of the late King 
which has been extracted and preserved. After partaking of 
this he is told he has " eaten the King." Hence the origin of the 
word Je Oba, to become a King (ht. to eat a King). 


at the coronation with marked pomp and ceremony. The 
actual crowning does not now take place in the Bar A as it seems 
to have been, but at Koso the shrine of Sango, but the visit to 
the Bara is so important and indispensable a preliminary that it 
has become more closely identified with the coronation than that 
to the other shrines visited on that occasion. 

Leaving the Ipadi — his temporary chambers — there are two 
stations at which the King elect has to halt before reaching the 
sacred building ; the' first is the Ahdtd or area in front of the palace 
where a tent of beautiful cloths has been erected tor him. Here 
he has to change his mourning dress for a princely robe. He then 
proceeds to the second station at the Alapini's midway on his 
route where a large tent and an enclosure have been erected for 
his reception. Here he is awaited by a vast concourse of people 
and welcomed with ringing cheers. Here he receives the congratu- 
lations and homage of the princes, the nobles, the chiefs and the 
people and is hailed as the King. Some ceremonies are here gone 
through also which include distribution of kola nuts, etc., to 
the princes and chiefs without. 

After this he proceeds to the Bara accompanied by the whole 
concourse of people who have to remain outside. He enters the 
sacred precincts attended by the Magaji lyajin (his official elder 
brother) the princesses, the Ona-Onse-awo (an official) , the Otun- 
wefa (the next to the chief of the eunuchs) who is a priest and 
the Omo-ni-nari, a set of servants. These last are to slaughter 
and skin the animals to be offered in sacrifice. 

At the Bara he worships at the tombs of his fathers, a horse, 
a cow, and a ram being offered at each tomb ; portions are sent 
out to each of the noblemen, princes, and chiefs waiting outside, the 
Basorun receiving the first and the lion's share oi the whole. 
He invokes the blessings of his deceased fathers and is hereby said 
to receive authority to wear the crown. The visit to the BarA 
then is for the purpose of receiving authority or permission from 
his deceased ancestors to wear the crown, hence it is spoken of as 
the coronation. It is a fixed rule that the whole of the meat is 
to be totally consumed at the BarA ; under no circumstance should 
any be taken home. 

This over, the King returns hence with great pomp and show 
to his temporary chambers, amid the firing of feu de joie, the 
bleating of the Kakaki trumpet, drumming, etc. 

On the fifth day after this he proceeds to Koso, the shrine of 
Sango, for the actual crowning. Here he is attended by the 
Otun-wefa who has the charge of the shrine, the Bale (mayor) 
of Koso a suburban village, the Omo-ni-naris, and the Isonas. 


[The Isgnas are a body of men whose sole employment is to do 
all needle and embroidered work for royalty. They are also the 
umbrella-makers. The crown, staff, robes, and all ornamental 
beadworks, and workings in cotton, silk, or leather are executed 
by them]. 

Surrounded by the principal eunuchs and princes the great 
crown is placed on his head with much ceremony by the lykkere. 
Who the ly^kere is, for whom is reserved this most important 
function will be seen below. The royal robes are put on him, 
the Ejigba* round his neck, the staff and the Sword of Mercy 
are placed in his hands. 

On the fifth day after this, he proceeds to the shrine of Orafiyan, 
here the Great Sword or Sword of Justice brought from Ile Ife 
is placed in his hands, without which he can huve no authority to 
order an execution. 

After another interval of five days, he proceeds to the shrine 
of Ogun the god of war, and there offers a propitiatory sacrifice 
for a peaceful reign. The offerings consist of a cow, a ram, and 
a dog ; this last being indispensable in any sacrifice to the god of 

From the shrine of Ogun, the procession goes straight on to the 
palace, entering now for the first time by the main gate opened for 
him, the former opening through the outer wall to the temporary 
chambers being quickly walled up. Thus he enters the palace 
proper as The King. 

But a new opening is made for him at the Kohi Aganju through 
which he enters the inner precincts of the palace. This entrance is 
tor his exclusive use in and out of the Kgbi during his reign : at 
his death it is closed up. At this entrance they offer in sacrifice a 
snail, a tortoise, an armadillo, a field mouse (emo) a large rat (okete) 
a toad, a tadpole, a pigeon, a fowl, a ram, a cow, a horse, a man and 
a woman, the last two being buried at the threshhold of the 
opening ; on the blood of the victims and over the grave of the 
two last, he has to walk to the inner court. 

Human saciifices however (now totally abolished) were not 
commonly practised amongst the Oygs, but such immolation 
was always performed at the coionation and at the burial of the 
sovereign. By these sacrifices he is not only crowned King with 

^ The Ejigba is a string of costly beads reaching down to the 
knees. Beads are used for precious stones. This represents the 
chain of office. Chains — they say — are for captives, hence they use 
beads instead. 


power over all, man and beast, but he is also consecrated a priest 
to the nation. His person, therefore, becomes sacred. 

All this having been performed, it is now formally announced 
to the assembled pubUc, that King " A " is dead (or rather has 
entered into the vault of the skies — O wo Aja) and King "B " 
now reigns in his stead. 

During the interval of the late King's illness, up to the time of 
his death, the business of state is carried on normally by the palace 
ofl&cers, the Osi-'wefa personating the King, even to the extent of 
putting on his robes and crown, and sitting on the throne when 
such is required ; but as soon as it is known that he is dead the 
Basgrun at once assumes the chief authority, and nothing can 
be done without him. 

The King having been crowned, he is henceforth forbidden to 
appear in public streets by day, except on very special and extra- 
ordinary occasions ; he is, however, allowed evening strolls on 
moonhght nights when he may walk about incognito. 

This seclusion not only enhances the awe and majesty due to 
a sovereign, but also lends power and authority to his commands, 
and is the best safe-guard for public order at their present 
stage of civiUzation. Besides, it would be very inconvenient 
to the citizens it the King were always coming out, for according 
to the universal custom of the country, whenever a chief is out, 
all his subordinates must go out with him. It is an inviolable 
law and custom of the country, and is appHcable to all, whatever 
their rank : thus, if the Basorun is out, all the Oyo Mesi must be 
out also. If the Bale of any town is out, all the chiefs of the town 
must be out also, and if the King is out, the whole city must be 
astir and on the move, all business suspended, until he returns 
into the palace. 

Igba Iwa 

At the commencement of every reign, the Igba Iwa or Calabashes 
of divination are brought from Ile Ife to the new King to divine 
what sort of reign his will be. 

Two covered calabashes, of similar shape and size but with 
quite different contents are brought, one containing money, 
small pieces of cloth and other articles of merchandize, denoting 
peace and prosperity ; the other containing miniature swords and 
spears, arrows, powder, bullet, razor, knives, etc., denoting wars 
and trouble for the country. The King is to choose one of them 
before seeing the contents, and according as he chooses so will be 
the fate of the Yoruba country during his reign. 


The Aremo 

The very first official act of the new King after his coronation 
is to create an Aremg, and a Princess Royal or an eqmvalent. 
The Aremo is the Crown Prince. The term simply denotes an 
heir, but it is used as the title of the Crown Prince of Oyo. 

The title is conferred upon the eldest son of the sovereign in a 
formal manner, the ceremony being termed the "christening" 
as of a newly born child, hence he is often termed " Qmo " (child) 
by way of distinction The title of Princess Royal is at the same 
time and in the same manner conferred upon the eldest daughter 
of the sovereign as well ; this, however, is of much less importance 
than the other. When the King is too young to have a son, or his 
son is a minor, the title is temporarily conferred upon a younger 
brother, or next of kin that stands to him in place of a son, but 
as soon as the son is of age, he must assume his title and begin to 
act under the guardianship of the eunuchs who are his guardians. 

The method is as follows : — Both of them must have a Sponsor, 
or " father " as he is called, chosen by divination from among the 
titled eunuchs ; this done, the Aremo repairs to the house of the 
Ona-Isokun to worship at the graves of the deceased Aremos, who 
were all buried there, and the princess to that of her deceased pre- 
decessor in her mother's house ; the King supplying them with a 
bullock each. The whole day is thus spent in festivities. On their 
return in the evening they both proceed direct to their sponsor's 
house where they must reside four days, each day being marked 
with festi\'ities, the king supplying two bullocks every day, and 
this is further supplemented by the Aremo himself. The feasts 
are open to the general public, whoever Hkes to repair to the house 
is a welcome guest, portions are also sent out to the princes, the 
noblemen, and other distinguished personages. At the end of the 
fourth day the Aremg, invested with the robes of his office and 
with a coronet, is conducted to his official residence where he takes 
up his permanent abode, and the princess suitably clad hkewise 
repairs to her own home. 

Public Appearances of the King 

The King generally appears in public on the three great annual 
festivals of Ifa, Orun, and the Bere. In two at least of these 
festivals (that of the Orun and the Bere), the Basorun is equally 
concerned with him. 

These festivals have certain features in common, although each 
has its own marked characteristics. They are all preceded by the 


worship of Ogun (the god of war) and on the third day after, the 
firing of a royal salute, and the sound of the ivory trumpet announce 
to the public, that the King may now be seen in state, sitting on 
his throne, and all loyal subjects who wish to have a glimpse of 
his majesty now may repair to the palace. 

The festival of I fa or Mole takes place in the month of July, 
nine days after the festival of Sango. The Ifa is the god of divin- 
ation. One day in the week is generally given to the consultation 
or the service of Ifa, but an annual festival is celebrated in its 
honour at Oyq. 

The Orun festival takes place in September. At this festival 
the King and the Basorun worship together the Ori or god of fate. 
The Orun from which it appears the Basorun derives his name 
and title is a curious if not rather a mystical rite. The word 
" Orun " signifies heaven. The title in lull is Iba Osorun i.e. 
the lord who performs the Orun or heavenly mysteries. 

The King and his Osorun are often spoken of as " Oba aiye " 
and " Qba Orun " i.e.. King terrestrial and King celestial. In 
what way His Supernal Highness performs the Orun, or what 
position he assumes towards the sovereign in this ceremony, is 
not generally known, because it is always done in private. But the 
rite seems to deal with affairs connected ■s\'ith the King's life. It 
is to him a periodic reminder of his coming apotheosis, and the 
emblem of worship is said to be a coffin made of or paved with 
clay in which he is to be buried. It is kept in charge of the " lya 
Oba " (the King's official mother) in a room in her apartments, 
visited by no one, and the ceremonies are performed in private 
once a year by the King himself, his " mother " and his Osorun, 
the latter taking the chief part ; consequently very little is actually 
known of the doings of these three august personages. But this 
much is allowed to be known, that the Basorun is to divine with 
kola nuts, to see whether the King's sacrifices are acceptable to 
the celestials or not, if the omen be favourable the Alafin is 
to give the Basorun presents of a horse and other valuables ; if 
unfavourable, he is to die, he has forfeited his right to further 
existence. But there can be no doubt that under such circum- 
stances, it can always be managed between them that the omens 
be always favourable. 

From this and other circumstances, it would appear that the 
King on this occasion occupies a humiliating position as one whose 
conduct is under review, hence the great privacy observed, for 
it is a cardinal principle with Yorubas that the Alafin, as the 
representative of the founder of the race, is to humble himself 
before no mortal ; if such a contingency were to occur, he is to die. 



Hence, no doubt, that his natural mother (if then living) is to make 
way for her son ascending the throne, so there will be no occasion 
to violate any filial duty imperative on a son who is at the same 
time the King. His majesty must be supreme. Even in per- 
forming reverential duties before the priests of Sango, when such 
are required, some privacy must be observed. 

The Bere festival takes place in January, towards the end of 
the year, the new year commencing in March. It is the most 
important and the grandest of the three. It is primarily the harvest 
home festival, symboUzed by ceremoniously setting the fields 
on fire to indicate that it has been cleared of the fruits of the earth. 

It is an important one at Oyo, not only because it closes the 
civil year, but also because by it the King numbers the years of 
his reign. 

The Bere itself which seems to be the symbol of so many cere- 
monies, is a common grass which grows only in the plain country 
and is used mainly for thatching houses. It is considered the most 
sumptuous of all other materials used for covering houses : it is 
the coolest, the neatest, the most durable, and lends itself best 
for ornamental purposes ; consequently it is highly thought of. 

The festival proper is always preceded by two important 
ceremonies, the Pakudirin indicating the beginning, and the 
Jelepa the end of the ingatherings. 

The Pakudirin is performed by the Ona-'wefa or chief of the 
eunuchs, by the Basorun or his representative and the Ab'obaku 
or master of the horse. 

The King in semi-state appears in the Kobi Aganju to witness 
the same, with several of the ladies of the palace around him, 
and at the entrance of the Aganju, the musicians making the 
occasion very lively. 

The King is supposed not to have seen the new Bere grass of the 
year, the Ona-'wefa first steps forwards before him with a scythe 
made of brass or copper, performing in the air a mimic act of 
mo\ving the grass, and one of the ladies of the palace deputed for 
the purpose, extending her wrap as it were to receive the same, 
hugging it as something precious. This is done two or three 
times, the Basorun then follows and goes through the same forms, 
and then the master of the horse. Each of these chiefs now makes 
a short speech congratulating the King on the advent of a new 
year, wishing him a long life and prosperous reign. 

After this, about half-a-dozen men with small bundles of the 
Bere grass, neatly done up, enter the palace, with measured steps 
to the sound of music, and come dancing before the King in front 
of the Aganju. His Majesty is supposed to see the grass now for 


the first time that year. This ceremony is brought to a close 
by presents given to the men, and then all spectators disperse. 
From nine to seventeen days are now allowed for harvesting 
before the fields are set on fire. 

The Jelepa is the ceremony of setting the fields on fire. This 
is performed by the Basorun outside the city walls. Booths and 
enclosures of palm leaves having been erected for the purpose, 
the Basorun with a princely train repairs thither on the day 
appointed. He is met there by a number of women from the 
palace bringing a large calabash draped with a white cloth and 
containing 01^1^ (a sort of pudding made of white beans and 
palm oil) and Eko (a kind of blanc -mange made of soaked corn 
flour), corn and beans being taken as the staples of Hfe, the 
principal products of the field. 

His Supernal Highness first offers a morsel of these in sacrifice 
as a harvest thank-offering for the Yoruba nation, after which 
both himself and those with him partake of the rest accompanied 
with palm wine or beer made from guinea corn, thanking God for 
the blessings of the field. This over he orders the fields to be 
set on fire : but if by an accident the fields have already been fired, 
a bundle of dry grass brought from home is used instead, for the 
purpose of the ceremony. 

The firing of a feu de joie now serves to show that the ceremony 
is over and the parties are returning to the city. This is done 
in state. The Basorun robes in one of the enclosures : he is 
attended by hundreds of horsemen and footmen, horsemen gallop- 
ing backwards and forwards before him, the firing and the fifing 
and drumming are quite deafening. With such a right royal pro- 
cession His Supernal Highness re-enters the city. On the evening 
of the same day, the King worships the Ogun which is a prehminary 
to every annual festival. 

The following day is a very busy one at Oyq. It is a day of 
paying tributes of Bere grass. The whole of the Oyo Mesi first 
send theirs to the King, the Basorun alone would send about 
200 bundles, the subordinate chiefs send to the senior chiefs, every 
one to his feudal lord or chief, each man according to his rank 
and position and so on to the lowest grades, the young men to the 
heads of compounds, so that it is usual to see loads of Bere passing 
to and fro all over the town the whole day. From the provinces 
also tributes of Bere come to Oyo later on ; e.g. from the Aseyin 
of Iseyin, the Oluiwo of Iwo, the Bale of Ogbomoso and other 
cities of the plain where the Bere grows. 

This being the recognized principal festival of the AlAfin other 
towns in lieu of Bere send congratulatory messages with presents, 


or tributes ; the Ibadans in their marauding days used to send 
slaves ; from the Ij§sas and Ekiti countries come kola nuts, alligator 
pepper, firewood and other forest products. Towns nearer the 
coast send articles of European manufacture, and so on during this 

The day after, being the third day of the ceremony of Jglepa and 
the worship of Ogun, the public festival takes place. 

The King in State 

The King generally appears in state on these three festive 

Facing the large quadrangle of the outer court are the six 
principal Kobis, that in the centre is what is known as the Kqbi 
Aganju or throne room where the AlAfin always appears on 
state occasions. It is always kept closed, and never used for any 
other purpose but this. 

On such occasions, the floor is spread all over with mats, and the 
front . of the throne overspread with scarlet cloths ; the posts 
all around are decorated with velvet cloths, and the walls with 
various hangings. 

The throne or chair of state was made of wood at a time when 
the knowledge of carpentry was not common in this country ; 
it cannot boast of any artistic merit, but it is highly valued for 
its solidity, hoary age, and tr?.dition. It is of a large size and 
covered over with velvet. 

The crown is made of costly beads such as coral, agra, and the 
like, which in this poor country stand to the people instead of 
precious stones. It is artisticsdly done up by experts, with fringes 
of small multi-coloured beads depending from the rim, which serve 
to veil the face. 

The robes are usually silks or velvets, of European manufacture, 
which were of much greater value in earlier days when inter- 
course with the coast was not so common or easy as it now is. 

The Ejigha is the " chaiYi of office." This is made of a string of 
costly beads going round the neck and reaching as far down as 
the knees. 

The Opa Ileke is the staff or sceptre artistically covered all over 
with small multi-coloured beads. 

The Iru here is a specially prepared cow's tail of spotless white 
which the King generally holds in front of his mouth when speaking 
for it is considered bad form to see him open his mouth in public. 
He makes his speech sotto voce, and it is repeated to the assembly in 
a loud voice by the chief of the Eunuchs. The white tail is more- 
over an emblem of peace and grace. 


The State Umbrellas. Umbrellas in this country are part and 
parcel of state paraphernalia. In fact there was a time when 
private individuals dared not use an umbrella ; that was in the 
days before cheap foreign ones were obtainable. The prohibition 
was first done away with at Ibadan, where the war boys were 
allowed to enjoy themselves in any way they liked, and use any 
materials of clothing and ornament they could afford, as it might 
be for only a few days before they laid down their lives on a 

However, those of a chief are easily distinguished now by their 
size and quality. They are almost always of bright colouring 
usually of damasks. The size and number are in proportion to 
the rank of the chief, usually of European manufacture now, 
though there is a distinct family of royal umbrella makers kept at 
Oyo who make those of the largest size. Most of the umbrellas 
foreign or locally made are decorated with certain emblems indica- 
tive of rank. About two dozen or more are used on these festive 

Music. The Kobi, third or fourth to the Agahju is occupied 
by the musicians. The musical instruments consist of almost 
every description of fifes, trumpets and drums, of which the ivory 
and Kakaki trumpets and Ogidigbo drum are peculiar to the 

The King enthroned is surrounded by his favourite wives, one 
of whom, the Are-ori-ite, holds a small silk parasol over his head 
from behind as a canopy. 

About 30 or 40 female Ilaris with costly dress and velvet caps 
on, are seated on the scarlet cloth on the right and on the left in 
front of the throne, but in the open air, under two large umbrellas, 
one on either side, a wide space being left between them. 

Then there is a row of about ten large umbrellas each on the 
right and the left, both rows facing each other, leaving a wide 
avenue between from the throne to the main entrance gate ; under 
those on the right are seated the Crown Prince supported by all 
the princes and the principal eunuchs : under those on the left 
are the younger eunuchs, the Ilaris, the Tetus, and other palace 
officials. Behind these on either side are the crowds of 

At a considerable distance in front of the throne, in the avenue 
left between the two groups, stand the Basorun and the rest 
of the Oyo Mesi to do homage. This is done by taking off their 
robes, wrapping their cloths round their waists, leaving the body 
bare ; three times they have to run to the main entrance gate, 
sprinkle earth on their heads and on their naked bodies, and run 


back half way towards the throne, prostrating themselves on the 
bare ground, on the stomach and on the back ! 

Then follows the customary oration from the throne, the King 
speaking in an undertone with the iru kere in front of his mouth, 
and the chief of the eunuchs, who with his lieutenants the Otun and 
the Osi'wefa is standing midway between the throne and the 
noblemen in the avenue between the spectators, acts as his spokes- 
man, repeating his message in a loud voice to the Basorun and his 
colleagues. The Basorun replies first, congratulating His Majesty, 
wishing him long life and prosperity, the other noblemen follow 
in regular order, the Asipa being the last. The chief of the eunuchs 
in like manner repeats the congratulatory address to their lord. 

That over, the sacrificial feast is now brought forward for 
distribution. About 40 dishes of stewed meat, 40 baskets of 
eko, 15 pots of beer, a bowl or two of boiled yam, a large quantity 
of boiled corn (maize) to these is added in later years a demijohn 
of rum. 

The Add-hd or king's taster now steps forward with a rod in 
his right hand, and a shield on his left, accompanied by his drummer. 
He first dances before the King and then retreats taking with him 
his own portion, a basket of eko, a plate of meat, a pot of beer, one 
yam, a head of corn ; he is to have a taste of each of these in the 
presence of the king, and the concourse of spectators present, after 
which his followers make away with the rest of his portion. 

Next comes the Olosa or king's robber, plajang the clown. 
He is dressed in a flowing garment, creeps about on all fours, 
performing mimic acts of robbery for the amusement of the 
spectators. After a few more amusements, the curtain drops. 
The rest of the dishes are cleared away into the dining hall where 
the Asipa by virtue of his office subsequently distributes them 
among the noblemen and their followers according to their 
rank, that of the Basorun being one half of the whole. When 
the curtain rises again, the King appears in a more gorgeous 
robe, with another crown on his head. His Majesty now steps 
out of the Kobi with his staff in hand, and walks towards 
the Ogidigbo drum, stately and majestic, and the Basorun comes 
dancing to meet him ; all at once the drums, fifes, and trumpets 
strike up in concert, the two rows of umbrellas move forward 
meeting in the centre to form a shady avenue for the two august 
personages, the King stepping forward with measured treads 
to the sound of the music, and the Basorun, dancing, and meeting 
him, receives from him one head of stringed cowries. This however 
is expected to be returned the next day, the apparent gift being 
merely a part of the ceremony. 


This usually ends the show, but on the B§re festival the King 
continues his walk right on to the great entrance gate, then half 
round the quadrangle giving the spectators a full view of himself, 
then by a side door disappears into the inner precincts of the palace. 
The spectators thereupon disperse. 

These three festivals are concluded by a few male Ilaris carrying 
sacrifices to certain quarters in the outskirts of the city in a state of 
perfect nudity, which is rather a trying time for them ; there is 
always a rush of the women clearing out of their way, on the 
approach of them ; the performance being symbolic of some 
religious rite. If it is violated by any show of natural excite- 
ment, it must be atoned for, and there is but one penalty, 
viz., decapitation ! But there is no record of any such case 
occurring within living memory. Their reward for this trying ordeal 
is, that after their return, being properly dressed, they are admitted 
into the King's presence, who, sitting in state, receives them with 
marks of honour. 

This ends the ceremonies of the festivals. 

But at the Bere season, one more ceremony remains, that known 
as the ceremony of " Touching the grass." About 5.30 p.m. on 
a day appointed, the King issuing from the palace is accompanied 
by his slaves who have been engaged in piling into two or three 
heaps the bundles of bere grass scattered about in the area in front 
of the palace, including those brought from the provinces. The 
piles are done up in an artistic manner, 8 or loft. high in an open 
space away from any risk of fire. His Majesty now steps forward, 
and lays both hands upon each of the heaps, making a short speech, 
invoking blessings on the Yoruba nation, congratulating himself 
for being spared to see another year. This brings the Bere festival 
to a close. 

The Funeral of the King 

Although the funeral of the King cannot properly he said to be 
one of his public appearances, yet it is considered more convenient 
to describe it in this place along with other public ceremonies of 
which he is the centre. 

The Kings are buried in the Bard. The funeral usually takes 
place at night. It is notified to the public by the sounding of the 
Okinkin (a musical instrument Uke the bugle), the ivory trumpet, 
and the Koso drum, a drum which is usually beaten every morning 
at 4 a.m. as a signal for him to rise from his bed ; to beat it at night 
therefore, is to indicate that he is retiring to his final resting place. 

The body is removed to the Bard on the back of those whose 
office it is to bury the Kings the chief of whom is a titled personage 


known as the Ona-onse-awo, and his lieutenants. At certain 
stations on the route between the palace and the Bard, eleven in 
all, they halt and immolate a man and a ram, and also at the Bard 
itself, four women each at the head and at the feet, two boys on 
the right and on the left, were usually buried in the same grave 
with the dead monarch to be his attendants in the other world, 
and last of all the lamp-bearer in whose presence all the ceremonies 
are performed. 

All these practices, however, have long been aboUshed, a horse 
and a bullock being used instead of human beings. 

The King is buried in black and white dress ; but the crown 
on his head, the gorgeous robe with which he was laid out in 
state, and with which his corpse was decked to the Bard, and 
the bracelets on his wrists and ankles are never buried with him, 
these become the perquisites of the Ona-ofise-awo and his 

The Bard in which the Kings are buried is distinguished by its 
aloof situation from public thoroughfares in the outskirts of the 
city, and having to it as many kohis as there are Kings lying there, 
one being erected over each. The present Bard enshrines the bones 
of King Oluewu the last of ancient Ovg with those of the late 
Kings of the present city. It is not open to the pubHc ; several 
of the late King's wives are secluded here (as in a convent) and 
charged with the sole duty of taking care of the graves of their 
departed husbands. 

Their mother superintendent is the lyamgde generally styled 
" Baba " (father). She is thus styled because being entirely 
devoted to the worship of Sango, one of the earliest deified Kings, 
she is often " inspired " or " possessed " by the god, and thus came 
to be regarded as the embodiment of that famous King. 

Additions are made to their number at every fresh burial, 
usually from among the favourites of the deceased husband. 
These women must all be celibates for life, unfortunately among 
the number are usually found some who are virgins and must 
remain so for life : any misbehaviour is punished with the death of 
both culprits, the man on the day the crime is detected, and the 
woman after her confinement. 

Besides those who are immolated at the death of the sovereign 
there used to be some " honourable suicides " consisting of certain 
members of the royal family, and some of the King's wives, and 
others whose title implies that they are to die with the King when- 
ever that event occurs. With the title they received as a badge a 
cloth known as the " death cloth," a beautiful silk damask wrapper, 
which they usually arrayed themselves with on special occasions 


during the King's lifetime. Although the significance of this was 
well-understood both by themselves and by their relatives, yet it 
is surprising to see how eager some of them used to be to obtain the 
office with the title and the cloth. They enjoyed great privileges 
during the King's lifetime. They can commit any crime with 
impunity. Criminals condemned to death and escaping to their 
houses become free. These are never immolated, they are to die 
honourably and voluntarily. 

Of the members of the royal family and others to die were : — 

1. The Aremo or Crown Prince who practically reigned with his 
father, enjoyed royal honours, and had equal power of life and death. 

2. Three princes with hereditary titles viz., the Magaji lyajin, 
the Agunpopo, and the Olusami. 

3. Two titled personages not of royal blood viz., the Osi'wefa 
and the Olokun-esin (master of the horse) who is generally styled 
" Ab'obaku," i.e. one who is to die with the King. 

4. The female victims were : — 

lya Oba, the king's official mother ; lya Naso, lyalagbon 
(the Crown Prince's mother) ; lyale Mole (the If a priestess), the 
Olgrun-ku-mefun, the lyamonari, the lya'-le-ori (these are all 
priestesses) and the Are-ori-ite the chief favourite. 

It will be observed that all the above-mentioned are those who 
by virtue of their office are nearest to the King at all times, and 
have the easiest access to his person ; to make their hfe dependent 
on his, therefore, is to ensure safety for him against the risk of 
poisoning, or the dagger of the assassin. 

The custom is that each should go and die in his (or her) own 
home, and among his family. The spectacle is very affecting. 
Dressed in their " death cloth," they issue from the palace to their 
homes surrounded by their friends, and their drummers beating 
funeral dirges, eager crowds of friends and acquaintances flocking 
around them, pressing near to have a last look at them or to say 
the final farewell as they march homewards. The house is full 
of visitors, mourners and others, some in profuse tears ; mournful 
waitings and funeral odes are heard on all sides enough to break 
the stoutest heart. While the grave is digging, the coffin making, 
a parting feast is made for all the friends and acquaintances ; and 
as they must die before sunset, they enjoy themselves as best they 
can for that day by partaking of the choicest and favourite dishes, 
appearing several times in changes of apparel, distributing presents 
with a lavish hand around, and making their last will disposing 
of their effects. When everything is ready, the grave and the 
coffin approved of, they then take poison, and pass off quietly. 
But if it fails or is too slow to take effect, and the sun is about to 


set, thelast office is performed by the nearest relatives (by strangling 
or otherwise) to save themselves and the memory of their kin 
from indelible disgrace. The body is then decently buried by the 
relatives and the funeral obsequies performed. 

In many cases voluntary suicides take place. Some of the 
King's favourite slaves who are not required to die often 
commit suicide in order to attend their master in the other world 
expecting to enjoy equally the emoluments of royalty in the other 
world as in this. 

But these customs are now d5dng out with the age especially 
since King Atiba in 1858 abolished that of the Crown Prince 
dying ; the loss of experienced princes like the lyajin around 
the throne is also felt irreparable. With the exception of the 
women, all the men now refuse to die and they are never forced 
to do so, but are superseded in their office if the next King wills 
it ; they must then retire quietly from the city to reside in any 
town in the country in order to prevent the confusion of two 
individuals bearing the same title. As for the Crown Prince, 
he expects to succeed his father on the throne but if he is rejected 
by the king-makers, he also has to retire from the city. 

Courtiers and Household Officers of the Crown 

The palace officials consist of : — 
I. Titled officers. II. The Eunuchs. III. The Ilaris. 
Some reside in the palace, others attend at regular hours every 
day for duty. 

I. The principal officers having duties in the palace are : — 

1. The Ona-Olokun-esin or Ab'Oba-ku i.e. the master of the 
horse, i.e. one who is to die with the King. This officer resides 
in his own house but repairs to the palace daily on duty. He has 
free access equally with the Eunuchs to all the apartments. The 
title is hereditary. As his name implies he is to die with the 
King to be his attendant in the other world, and consequently 
he is granted unrestricted liberty to live as he likes, and to do what- 
ever he likes, and, like all other officials who must die with the 
King, his house is a sanctuary of safety and reprieve for all 
criminals condemned to death, if they can escape thither. 

2. The Ona-ile-mole is the Ifa priest or chief diviner, a kind of 
domestic chaplain. He has for his assistants the Are-awo and 
others. They are to consult the Ifa oracle for the King every 
fifth day called Ojo-Awo i.e. the day of the mysteries. 

3. The Ona-Onse Awo. The daily duties of this officer are not 
so well-defined, but he has to attend daily at the palace. He has 


his lieutenants to the sixth grade. But their chief duty is to carry 
the jemains of the deceased monarch from the palace to the 
Bard for interment. 

4. The Qna-modekh. This is the civil counterpart of the mihtary 
title of Seriki. This officer is the head, or leader of all the youths 
in the city and country, capable of bearing arms, whoever may be 
their father or master. He forms a band of them all, and is sup- 
posed to train them in manly sports and civic duties. It is his 
prerogative to shield members of his band from the penalties of 
the law whenever they have become liable to such, by any rash 

5. The Isugbins. These are members of the palace orchestra. 
They number about 210 per.sons, playing on fifes, the Okinkin 
and the Ivory trumpets, and the special drums Koso and Gbedu, 

(«) The Ahikoso or Koso drummer's chief duty is to wake 
up the King every morning at 4 a.m. with his drum. 

(b) The Aludundun or the Dundun drummer. He has to 
attend at the palace every day within certain hours, 
including the \dsiting or business hours. He has one of 
the front Kobis assigned to him, where he sits discoursing 
events with his drum, all during his office hours. With 
it, he pre-announces the presence of any visitor in the 
palace, so that in whatever part of the palace the King 
may be, he can tell by the sound of the drum who has 
entered the court yard before the personage is actually 
announced. This is one of the peculiarities of the Yoruba 
language, and the art of the drummers. The names, 
praises and attributes of every family of note are known 
to all drummers, and musicians, and they are experts 
in eulogizing and enlarging on the praises of any one they 
wish to honour, speaking it with their drums. If for 
instance a white man enters the palace, the drummer 
would strike up : " Oyinbo, Oyinbo, afi okun se gnk " 
(the white man, the white man who makes of the ocean a 
high way). In strains like this he would continue for a 
while enlarging upon his praises. 

6. The Arokins. These are the rhapsodists or national historians, 
an hereditary title ; they have an apartment to themselves where 
they repeat daily in songs the genealogy of the Kings, the principal 
events of their lives and other notable events in the history of the 
Yoruba country. 

7. The lie tndle is the palace surveyor. He has charge of all 


the buildings within that vast compound, especially of the Kgbis. 
He is to see that every part is kept in good repair. He is also 
to attend to the drains and the grounds, especially after a heavy 
fall of rain. He is said to be the principal officer who is to wash 
the corpse of the King and dress it before it is placed in the coffin. 

8. The Tetus. These are the sheriffs or King's executioners. 
They are about 19 in number, each one of them with his 
subordinates has specified duties to perform e.g., it is the duty 
of the 15th with his subordinates to clear the grounds and dishes 
after the King has entertained the Oyq Mesi. They number 
about 150 in all. 

II. The Eunuchs. The Eunuchs are called Iwefa or Iba-afin 
(contracted to Baafin) i.e. lordlings of the palace. The principal 
are : — The Ona'efa or chief of the Eunuchs, the Otun'efa and the 
Osi'efa his principal Ueutenants, and others to the sixth grade. 
Besides these are the untitled ones, and boys. 

The Ona'efa is a high legal personage ; he hears and decides 
suits and appeals brought to the King whenever His Majesty 
cannot sit in person, and his decision is as good as the King's 
whose legal adviser he is. We have seen above the principal part 
he plays in public festivals and state ceremonies. 

The Otun'efa has the charge of the suburban town of Koso, 
built in honour of the national god Sango. It is his duty to worship 
at the shrine at stated periods on behalf of the Yoruba people. 
He sometimes helps to decide cases. He is also one of the chief 
guardians of the King's children. 

The Osi'efa or Olosi although the least of the three yet is the 
most honoured. He represents the King on all occasions and in 
all matters civil as well as military. He sometimes acts as 
commander-in-chief in military expeditions, he is allowed to use 
the crown, the state umbrellas, and the Kakaki trumpet, and to 
have royal honours paid to him . On such occasions he is privileged 
also to dispense the King's prerogatives. His ordinary duties 
are : to be near the King's person at all times, having free access 
to every part of the palace including the harem ; to see that the 
King's bed is properly made, before he retires every night ; to 
visit him at midnight and at cock-crow to see if he has had a 
restful night, and to call him up at 4 a.m. before the Koso drum 
begins to sound. He is to head those of the King's wives who 
are to dance at the Akesan market once a year, after the deity 
presiding over markets has been propitiated. With Eni-gjk one 
of the titled ladies of the palace, he has charge of the King's market 
and enjoys in part the emoluments accruing therefrom. 

Why these exceptional honours are bestowed upon the third 


ih rank among the Eunuchs, will be told hereafter in the history 
of one of the early kings. 

The Eunuchs are a grade higher than the Ilaris and must be 
respected by them ; however young a Eunuch may be, he must be 
addressed as " Baba " (father) by any Ilari even the oldest. 

The custom of castrating a man is said to have originated from 
the punishment inflicted for the crime of incest or ot beastiaUty. 

The Eunuchs are distinguished by the manner they wear their 
gowns gathered on the shoulders, leaving their arms bare. They 
are now generally chosen from boys bought with money, and 
employed first as pages to the King, or attendants on one of his 
wives. The custom of choosing boys was introduced by one of 
the later Kings ; his reason for it was, that before the age of 
puberty, boys will hardly be cognizant of their loss, and he would 
thus spare himself the remorse of conscience which would follow 
the mutilation of an adult, and also save his victim from a Ufe-long 

Emasculation of an adult is now only resorted to instead of 
capital punishment in cases of adultery with the wife of a king ; 
but in order that the system may not be abused, provincial kings 
are not allowed to resort to this mode of punishment, nor even to 
keep Eunuchs ; any one really guilty must be sent to the capital 
where a special surgeon is kept for the purpose who is skilful in 
the art. 

The Eunuchs are the guardians of the King's children, the 
princes and princesses as a rule are born in the house of one of the 
principal Eunuchs for as soon as any of the King's wives becomes 
a mother, she is separated from the other women, and placed 
under the guardianship of one of them, and she is not to return 
to the palace until the child is weaned. 

The titled ones among them are masters of large compounds, 
and they also keep their own harems as well ; their wives are called 
" Awewo," i.e. one with hands tied ; because they are doomed to 
be for ever childless. In cases of adultery disclosed by pregnancy 
both the defaulters in early days were to suffer capital punishment ; 
the man on the day the crime was proved against him, and the 
woman with the issue on the day she is delivered. These extreme 
measures, however, have been allowed to die out, in favour of 
fines or other less severe punishments. 

The Eunuchs have the exclusive right of seizing anything in 
the market with impunity. They have also the unenviable 
privilege of mingling with the King's wives either in the harem 
or whenever they appear in public on any festive occasion. 

Ill The Ilaris. The term Ilari denotes parting of the head, 



from the peculiar way the hair of the head is done. They are 
of both sexes, they number some hundreds, even as many as the 
King desires to create. 

The individual to be created an Ilari is first shaved completely, 
then small incisions, are made on the occiput (if a male) and on 
the left arm, into both of which a specially prepared ingredient is 
rubbed, supposed to be a charm capable of giving effect to whatever 
the name given to the individual at the same time signifies. Their 
names generally signify some attributes of the King, or are 
significant of his purpose, intention or will, or else the preservation 
of his life, e.g. Oba I'olu, the King is supreme ; Oba-ko-se-tan, 
the King is not ready ; S'aiye ro, the upholder of the world (i.e. 
the kingdom) ; Oba gb'ori, the King the overcomer ; Madarikan, 
do not oppose him. The following are the names of some of the 
principal Ilaris, all of which will be seen to be significant. 

I Kafiaiye f ' Oba 


Ote d'afo 

2 Madarikin 



3 Ikudefun 



4 Ilugbenka 



5 Obajuwonlo 


Kape laiye 

6 Opaykkata 

35 Agbasa 

7 S'aiyero 

36 Ilugbohun 

8 Mob'oludigbaro 


Oba gb'aiye 

9 Obagbeiile 

38 Agbelegbiji 

10 Obagbori 


Oba diji 

II Ayunbo 



12 Ote o lowg 


Olu orin-kkn 

13 Kotito 



14 Obakosetan 


Enu f'oba 

15 Ori§a fetu 


Oba I'agba 

16 Oba d'origi 



17 Sunmo-Oba 



18 Olukobinu 


Oba gbede 

19 Kafilegbgin 


Oba femi 

20 Obadirere 


Oba gba-iyo 

21 Makobalap§ 



22 Mab'obadu u 



23 Temileke 



24 Oba-ni yio jilo 



25 Ori-ehin 


Img kojo 

26 Oba-tun-wa-se 



27 Agbklk 



28 Agbkro 



29 Kutenlo 

58 Agbe defun 


59 Oba-li-a-isin 64 Madawo t'gba-lori 

60 Emi-mo rOba-mi 65 Ma-ni-Oba lara 

61 Igba-abere 66 Maro-Oba-lohun 

62 Oba I'olu 67 Oridagogo 

63 Akegbe 68 Apeka 

Every male Ilari has a female counterpart who is called his 
companion. The Ilaris themselves by courtesy call them their 
" mother." They are both created at one and the same time and 
they are supposed to seek each other's interest, although there 
must be no intimacy between them ; the female Ilaris being 
denizens of the King's harem ; the only attention they are allowed 
to pay each other is to make exchange of presents at the yearly 

Each Ilari has a representative image made of clay called 
" Sugudu," having incisions on its head and arm similar to his own, 
with the same ingredient rubbed into them. 

The Ilaris are to keep the head shaved, one half being done 
from the middle line downwards alternately every fifth day except 
the circular patch on the occiput where the incisions were made ; 
there the hair is left to grow as long as possible being always plaited 
and sometimes dyed black with indigo. 

The male Ilaris are the King's body guard or " The keepers of 
his head." They are of different grades including high-placed 
servants, messengers, and menials. Some of the favoured ones 
are made masters of large compounds, the King supplying them 
with horses and grooms, and assigning to them certain gates where 
they collect tolls, the proceeds being divided between their master 
and themselves for their maintenance ; they are also feudal lords 
of some masters of large compounds in different parts of the city 
who serve them in various capacities in war or in time of 

All the inmates of their houses are for the most part the King's 
slaves, and every newly made Ilari is handed over to the charge 
of one or other of these highly-placed ones. 

These favoured ones ride upon the tallest horses whenever the 
King goes out in public, forming his body guards ; others are 
servants to these ; but their chief work one and all is that of house 
repair year by year. 

On any festive occasion when the King appears in state, as 
many of the male Ilaris as are required to be present must each 
one take his " sugudu " with him to his seat. They are on such 
occasions to be without a headgear or breeches with only a cloth 
over the body, passed under the right aim, and knotted on the left 
shoulder, the arms being left bare. 


It is the especial privilege of the Ilaris, male or female, to carry 
nothing on the head save their hats or caps. 

Ladies of the Palace 

The ladies of the palace consist of eight titled ladies of the 
highest rank, eight priestesses, other ladies of rank, besides Ilaris 
and the Ayabas or King's wives. 

The whole of them are often spoken of loosely as " the King's 
wives," because they reside in the palace, but strictly speaking the 
titled ladies and the priestesses at least should not be included 
in the category. Again, all the ladies of rank are often spoken 
of as Ilaris, but there is a marked difference between them. 

The following are the ladies of the highest rank in their due 
order : — 

1 lya Oba 5 lya-fin-Iku 

2 lya kere 6 lyalagbgn 

3 lya-Naso 7 Orun-kumefun 

4 lya-monari 8 Are-orite 

I. The lya Oba is the King's (official) mother. For reasons 
stated above (vide p. 48) the King is not to have a natural mother. 
If his mother happens to be living when he is called to the throne, 
she is asked to " go to sleep," and is decently buried in the house 
of a relative in the city. All the inmates of that house are accorded 
special piivileges and enjoy marked deference as " members 
of the household of the King's mother." 

The King sends to worship at her grave once a year. One of the 
ladies of the palace is then created lya-Oba, and she is supposed 
to act the part of a mother to him. It is her privilege to be the 
third person in the room where the King and the Basorun worship 
the Orun in the month of September every year. 

She is the feudal head of the Basorun. 

2 The lya kere. Next to the King's mother, the lya kere holds 
the highest rank. Greater deference is paid to the lya Oba indeed, 
but the lya kere wields the greatest power in the palace. She has 
the charge of the King's treasures. The royal insignia are in 
her keeping, and all the paraphernalia used on state occasions, 
she has the power of withholding them, and thus preventing the 
holding of any state reception to mark her displeasure with the 
King when she is offended. We have seen above that she is the 
person entitled to place the crown on the King's head at the 

She is the " mother " of all the Ilaris male and female, for it is 
in her apartment they are usually created ; she keeps in her custody 


all the " sugudus " bearing the marks of each Ilari in order to 
ensure the safety of the King's life. 

Great and honourable as is the Olosi, she exercises full power 
over even him, and can have him arrested and put in irons if he 
offends. She is the feudal head of the Aseyin, Oluiwo, and the 
Bale of Ogbomgso. With the assumption of this office, she is, of 
course, to be a celibate for life. 

3. The lya-Naso has to do w^th the worship of Sango generally 
and is responsible for everything connected with it. 

The King's private chapel for Sango worship is in her apartment, 
and all the emoluments and perquisites arising therefrom are 
hers. She has also to do with the same at Koso. 

4. The lya-monari is the first lieutenant and assistant to the 
lya-Naso. It is her office to execute by strangling any Sango 
worshipper condemned to capital punishment, as they are not to 
die by the sword, and hence cannot be executed by the T^tus, 

5. The lya-fin-Ikii is the second lieutenant and assistant 
to the lya-Naso. She is the King's " Adosu Sango," i.e. the King's 
devotee to the Sango mysteries. As all Sango worshippers are 
to devote one of their children to the worship of the god, she stands 
in place of that to the King. She has the charge of the sacred 
ram which is allowed to go everywhere and about the market 
unmolested, and may eat with impunity anything from the 

6. The lyalaghon. — The mother of the Crown Prince is always 
promoted to the rank of lyalaghon. In case she is not living 
whoever is promoted to that office acts like a mother to him. She 
enjoys great influence, and controls a portion of the city. 

7. The Orun-kumefun is also connected with the Aremo. 

8. The Are-orite. This official is the King's personal attendant. 
She is to see that his meals are properly prepared, and his bed 
properly made, and also to see him comfortably in bed before 
retiring to her own apartment. She is to hold the silken parasol 
over his head as a canopy when enthroned, and is constantly 
by his side to perform small services for him on state and other 

These eight ladies holding responsible positions are each of 
them the head of a small compound within the palace walls. 

The Priestesses 

1. lya'le Ori 5. lya Olosun 

2. lyale Mole 6. lyafin Osun 
3: lya Orisanla 7. lyafin Eri 

4. lya Yemaja 8. lyafin-Orunfumi 


(i) lya le Ori is the priestess of the god Ori or god of fate. 
In her apartment is the King's Ori and she is the one to propitiate 
it for him. 

(2) lya' le mole has in her keeping the King's If a god, and when 
the If a priests come every fifth day to worship and to consult 
it, she takes an active part in the ceremonies. She is the head of 
all the Babalawos (Ifa priests) in the city. 

(3) — (S) ^s their names denote, are priestesses of the gods indicated 
by the title. 

Other Ladies of High Rank 

1. The Iyamod§ 5. The Eni-Oja 

2. The lya'le Oduduwa 6. The lya'le-Agbo 
;-]. The Ode 7. The lya-Otun 

4. The Obaguntg 

(i) The lyamode. — This high official resides in one of the out- 
houses of the palace, but her duties are not specially in the palace. 
She is the superior of those celibates living in the Bard and is 
styled by them " Baba " i.e. father. 

Her office is to worship the spirits of the departed Kings, calling 
out their Eguguns in a room in her apartments set aside for 
that purpose, being screened off from view with a white cloth. 

The King looks upon her as his father, and addresses her as such, 
being the worshipper of the spirits of his ancestors. He kneels 
in saluting her, and she also returns the salutation kneeling, never 
reclining on her elbow as is the custom of the women in saluting 
their superiors. The King kneels for no one else but her, and 
prostrates before the god Sango, and before those possessed with 
the deity, calling them " father." These are among those set 
apart for life-long service at the Bard. When any one of them 
is thus " possessed " by the spirit of deceased monarchs (it is said 
of them " Oba wa si ara won ") and comes raving from the Bara 
to the palace, she is im.mediately placed under the charge of the 
lyamode ; the possessed on such occasions prognosticates, and 
tells the people what sacrifice they are to offer to avert impending 
evils. The ceremony on such occasions is to pour some water 
into a mortar, covering it with a wide calabash, and this the other 
women in the palace beat vigorously as a drum ; the possessed 
and others infected with the excitement dancing to the sound of 
this drumming. 

The Akunyungbas (the King's bards) are instructed in her 
apartments, their teacher comes there three times daily for three 
months or more until the learners are perfect in their studies. 
Small corporal punishments, twitchings, of the ears, and cracks on 


the head are not spared on these occasions, if they are not quick 
at catching the words or if their memory fails them. 

With the assumption of this office, the tyamgde is, of course, 
to be a celibate for hfe. 

(2) The lya'le-Oduduwa is the priestess, of Oduduwa the supposed 
founder of the Yoruba nation. A special temple is built in the 
palace for him where his image is enshrined and worshipped. She 
is the head of all Oduduwa worshippers in the city. She resides 
in one of the out houses, and does not rank with the eight priestesses 
mentioned above. 

(3) The Ode is the head of all the worshippers of the god Os6si. 
On state occasions she appears dressed as a hunter (hence her name) 
wearing on her shoulder a bow ornamented with strings of cowries 
neatly strung. 

(4) The Obagunte is not regarded as having a very high position, 
although she represents the King in the Ogboni house on ordinary 
occasions, her work being strictly connected with that fraternity. 
She enters the Ogboni chamber on all occasions and acts in the 
King's name, reporting to his majesty the events of each day's 
sitting. Whenever the King wishes to entertain the Ogbonis, 
she has to undertake that duty. 

(5) The Eni-ojd is at the head of all the devil-worshippers in the 
town. She also has charge of the King's market, and enjoys all 
the perquisites accruing therefrom. She wears a gown like a 
man, on her arms the King leans on the day he goes to worship 
at the market, i.e. to propitiate the deity that presides over 
markets. She has under her (i) the Olosi who has joint responsi- 
bility with her for the market, and (2) the Aroja or market keeper, 
an officer whose duty it is to keep order, and arrange the manage- 
ment of the market, and who actually resides there. 

(6) The lya'le-agbo is a private attendant on the King, having 
charge of his private pharmacy. His agunmu (powders) and agho 
(infusions) are all in her care : she is to see that they are in a 
condition fit for use when required. 

All these ladies, except the Qhagunte and lya'le niQle although 
generally styled " Ilaris " are not really so, and that is known from 
the manner their hair is done up. They are really above the 

The lya-Oba, and lya mode are always shaven, the others plait 
their hair in small strips from the forehead to the top of the head 
and gather the rest from the back to the top, tying all into one knot 
with a string. This style is termed the Ikokoro. 

The Ode, Eni-ojk, lyafin-Iku, lya-Olosun and the lya'le 
Oduduwa adorn theirs with the red feathers of the parrot's tail. 



The Ilaris. — The female Ilaris are somewhat differently shaved 
from the male, their incisions being made from the front to the 
back of the head along the middle line ; the hair is allowed to 
grow along the same line, and it is plaited into two horns front and 
back, being twined with a string or thread, and the sides of the 
head shaved alternately every fifth day. 

The following are the names of the principal female Ilaris, 
every one of which is significant : — 












Ire k'aiye 
















Bam wo wo 



16 Awoda 

17 Irebe 

18 Agbejo ^ 

19 Awujale 

20 Ori're 

21 Oju're 

22 Awigba 

23 Alogbo 

24 Oridijo 

25 Tijotayo 

26 Aiye f'obase 

27 Aji gbohun 

28 Iwadero 

29 Omuye 

30 Ajigbore 

31 Obadaro 

33 Aronu 

34 Apa-6-ka 

35 Ina-Oba-koku 

36 Agbala 

37 Ota-ko-ri-aye 

38 Ma-dun-mi-de-inu 

39 Oledetu 

40 Madajo-l'Oba 

41 Ajijofe 

42 Olu-f'oba 

43 Iwapgle 

44 Ohungbogbo 

45 Aiyedero 

46 Ehin-wa 

47 Maha-ro-t'oba 

48 Onjuwon 

32 Alanu 

These female Ilaris have the exclusive privilege of using the 
female head ties, or men's caps, the ordinary Ayabas or King's 
wives are distinguished by carrying their heads bare, always 
shaved, and their head ties used as a belt round the breasts. 

At the demise of the King the whole of the Ilaris male and female 
go into mourning by dropping their official (Ilari) names, and 
letting their hair grow. At a new accession, the whole of them 
shave their heads. One of the earliest acts of the new sovereign 
after the coronation and the investiture of the Aremo (Crown 
Prince) and just before the next great festival is to create all 
the Ilaris afresh by batches every 5 days, giving a new name 
to each and adding a new set of his own ; only the lances of the 
head are re-done, not those of the arm. Each batch is to remain 
seven days at the He Mol|. This " distribution of honours" is 
eagerly sought after. 

Members of the Royal Family Occupying Responsible 


As a rule, distinguished members of the Royal Family except 
those holding responsible positions do not reside in the metropolis, a 


great number of them may be found scattered all over the provinces 
especially in the Ekicn Osi or Metropolitan province, where each 
one resides as a lord of the town or village. They may take no 
part in the administration of affairs in the town, lest they over- 
shadow the chief of the town who is generally the founder or his 
descendant, but due deference is loyally accorded them, and certain 
privileges are granted them as befitting their rank. One such was 
Atiba the son of King Abiodun who resided in the town of Ago 
with Oja the foundet, after whose death Atiba became practically 
the master of the town before he was subsequently elected King. 

Some of the princes with a large family and a large following 
build their own town and become lord of the town. Such was 
Ayeijin who built the town ot Surii near the ancient Oyo popularly 
known as He Gbager^ from the attributive of the founder. 

There are those however, who hold high positions in the govern- 
ment such as the following : — 

I. The OxNA Isokun. 2, The Ona Aka. 3. The Omo-Ola. 

These are known as thejathers of the King, hence the saying : — 

" Ona-Isokun baba Oba, 
Ona-Aka, baba Isokun." i.e. 

The Ona-Isokun the King's father, the Ona-Aka, father to the 
Isokun. That is to say that they stand in the relation of a father 
to the King, who naturally cannot have a father living. To them 
it appertains to advise, admonish, or instruct the King, especially 
when he comes to the throne at a very early age, and as such lacks 
the experience indispensable for the due performance of his all- 
important duty. The titles are hereditary. 

We have seen above that the nomination to the throne is in 
their hands. The Ona I§okun seems to be the most responsible 
of the three. We have seen that the King-elect is to sleep in his 
house the first night after his election, as the formal call to the 
throne comes from him. Lustrations, divinations, and propitiations 
for the new King are done in his house. Part also of the ceremony 
of creating the Aremg is periormed in his house ; there all the 
princes are entertained in festivities, and there also all crown princes 
are buried if they die in that position. 

Next to the above are those who are termed " brothers " to the 
King, they are : — 

1. The Magaji lyajin 4. The Atingisi 

2. The Olusami 5. The Agunpopo 

3. The Arole Oba 6. The Arole lya Oba. 


Officially, the Aremg takes his rank among these princes, 
especially in public assemblies and is generally reckoned as the 
last of them in official order. 

As the king must have official " father " and " mother " so also 
must he have official " brothers." Of these the Magaji lyajin is 
the most distinguished. He is known as the King's elder brother, 
whose duty is to perform the part of an elder to a younger brother 
by defending his interests. 

The term " Magaji " is the natural title of every heir to a great 
estate and is usually borne by the eldest son (or anyone in that 
relation) in the family. In this official royal circle the lyajin 
is the eldest son. The term " lyajin " impUes the repelling of insults 
and indignities. The title therefore means the elder brother, 
who wards off insults and indignities. 

This will often be found necessary when the King is young and 
inexperienced, and too conscious of his power, or sometimes rash. 
It is the Magaji's place to let the consequences of his action fall 
on himself rather than on the King who is the embodiment of 
the nation. 

The Ar-ole Ob.\ is the official in whose house all the princes are 
to be buried, and in the month of July every year the whole of 
the princes and princesses, from the Ona-Isokun downwards 
including the Ar§mg repair to his house to worship the spirits 
of their deceased ancestors. A horse is usually offered in sacrifice, 
and all have to feed on the flesh of the same. The lyajiu's portion 
is the head. 

The Aremo as we have seen above is the Crown Prince. The term 
signifies an heir apparent, lit. Chief of the sons. How the title is 
formally conferred has been seen above. 

The Aremo practically reigns with his father, having nearly 
equal power, especially when the monarch is old and feeble. 

From the period of the greatest prosperity of the nation to the 
time of the intertribal wars, the Aremgs v/ere almost invariably 
tyrannical, and given to excess : they contributed largely to the 
disloyal explosion that caused the civil wars and the breaking up 
of the unity of the Yoruba kingdom ; they were.therefore, required 
to die with the father at his demise. Otherwise they expect 
to succeed to the throne as in earliest times, but they had to be 
elected thereto by the constitutional king-makers who would 
never elect one who has been infamous. 

Since King Atiba in 1858 disallowed the practice in favour of 
his Ar§mo Adelu, the custom has died out both for the Aremo 
and the other princes. 

70 the history of the yorubas 

The Nobility 

There are two classes of noblemen at Oyo ; in the first, the 
title is hereditary ; the second which is strictly military is the 
reward of merit alone, and not necessarily hereditary. In both, 
each member is styled " Iba " which means a lord being a dimuni- 
tive of " Oba " a king. 

A. The Oyo Mesi 

The first class of noblemen consists of the most noble and most 
honourable councillors of state, termed the Oyq Mesi. They are 
also the king-makers. They are seven in number and of the 
following order : — 

(i) The Osorun, (2) Agbakin, (3) Samu, (4) Alapini, {5) Laguna, 
(6) Akiniku, (7) A§ipa. 

The title of each (as above said) is hereditary in the same 
family but not necessarily from father to son ; it is within the 
King's prerogative to select which member of the family is to 
succeed to the title or he may alter the succession altogether. 

They represent the voice of the nation ; on them devolves the 
chief duty of protecting the interests of the kingdom. The King 
must take counsel with them whenever any important matter 
affecting the state occurs. Each of them has his state duty 
to perform, and a special deputy at court every morning and 
afternoon and whom they send to the AlAfin at other times when 
their absence is unavoidable ; they are, however, required to 
attend court in person the first day of the (Yoruba) week, for the 
Jakuta (Sango) worship and to partake of the sacrificial feast. 

(i) The OsQrtm or Iba Osorun (contr. to Basorun i.e., the lord 
that performs the " Oran ") may be regarded as the Prime Minister 
and Chancellor of the kingdom and something more. He is not 
only the president of the council but his power and influence are 
immeasurably greater than those of the others put together. His 
is the chief voice in the election of a King, and although the King 
as supreme is vested with absolute power, yet that power must be 
exercised within the limit of the unwritten constitution, but if 
he is ultra-tyrannical and withal unconstitutional and unacceptable 
to the nation it is the Basorun's prerogative as the mouth-piece 
of the people to move his rejection as a King in which case His 
Majesty has no alternative but to take poison and die. 

His Highness being a prince is practically as absolute as a King 
in his own quarter of the town. 

Next to the AlAfin in authority and power, he often performs 
the duties of a King. He takes precedence of all provincial 


kings and princes. There were times in the history of the nation 
when the Basoruns were more powerful than the Alafin himself. 

During the long course of history there have been several alliances 
between the two families so that, in the older line of Basoruns 
at any rate, the blood of the royal family runs also in their veins. 

Several points of similarity may be noted between the AlAfin 
and his Basorun The AlAfin is Oba (a king) he is Iba (a lord). 
The AlAfin' s wives are called Ayaba, the Basorun's Ayinba. 
They are similarly clothed, carrying their heads bare and shaven, 
and their head- bands used as belts ; but the Ayinbas are not equally 
avoided by men as the Ayabas are. 

The Iha Osorun has kgbis to his palace as well, but a limited 
number ; those of the AlAfin being unlimited. He too has a 
number of Ilaris as a king, but they must be created for him by the 

The AlAfin has his crown, his throne, his Ejigba round his 
neck. The Osorun has a specially made coronet of his own, a 
specially ornamented skin called the Wabi on which he sits, and a 
string of beads round his neck also like the Ejigba. 

We have seen that at the principal festivals of the AlAfin, the 
Basorun also has minor festivals to observe in conjunction and 
has his part to plaj' at the main observance also. 

When the AlAfin reigns long and peacefully enough to celebrate 
the Bebe, a festival akin to the royal jubilee, the Basorun must 
follow with the Owark. 

But it is a peculiarity of theBasorun's children that the boys are 
never circumcised. 

Although the title is hereditary in the same family yet it is 
within the King's power to change the line of succession when 
necessity demands that course. 

Thus the whole unwritten constitution of the Yorubas seems to 
be a system of checks and counter-checks, and it has on the 
whole worked well for the country. 

There have been five different families of the Basorun line, 
each one with its distinctive cognomen. The first and oldest 
belonged to the family totem of Ogun (the god of war) and have 
for appellatives Moro, Ma§o, Mawd, Maja, Ogun. This was the 
original line contemporary with the earh'est Kings. It covers 
the reign of i8 Kings and ended with Basorun Yamba, in the reign 
of King OjiGi. 

With the long lease of power and influence enjoyed by this 
family, it became as wealthy and great as, or even greater than the 
sovereign himself, especially as some of the Basoruns out-lived 
two or three successive Kings. Therefore King Gberu the successor 


of Ojigi transferred the succession to his friend Jambu of another 
line, whose appellatives were Maja Maro. This hne embraced 
the reign of seven Kings and ended with Asamu in Abiodun's 

The third began with Alobitoki in Aole's reign, having the 
appellatives of Maja Majo of the totem of Agan. 

This line was not allowed to continue, it flourished during the 
reign of one King only, for Ojo Abuiumaku the son of Onisigun 
and grandson of Basorun Ga was of the older line. The fourth 
line began with Akioso in King MaJOTU's reign, and also ended 
with himself in the reign of Oluewu, the last of ancient Oyo. 
This family was rather insignificant. 

Oluyole the first Basorun of the new city was the grandson of 
Basorun Yamba, and therefore of the older Ogun Hne. 

The fifth and last line commenced with Gbenla in the reign of 
King Atiba, the totem is Aye and is the family now in office 
and has already lasted through the reign of three kings. 

The Basoruns of Ibadan after Oluyole are only honorary with 
no national duties attached to the office. 

A Synopsis of the Basorun Family 

Ba§oruns. Appellatives. Family Totems. 

1. Efufukoferi to Yamba Moro, Maso, Maja Ogun 

2. Jambu to Asamu Maja Maro (?) 

3. Alobitoki Maja Majo Agan 

4. Akioso (?) Ese 

5. Gbenla to Layode (?) Aye 

(2) The Aghakin. — The duties of this official are not so well- 
defined, but the present Agbakin has the charge of the worship of 

(3) Satnu. The duties of the Samu are not clearly known. 

(4) The A lapini. — He is the head of the Egugun mysteries, and 
as such he is at the head of religious affairs in general. He has 
the charge of the famous Jenju, who is the head Egugun of the 
country, and who executes witches ! He is at once a religious 
and a secular personage ; he shares with the priests all rehgious 
offerings, and in secular matters with the noblemen of his class. 
By virtue or his peculiar office he must be a monorr.his. 

(5) The Laguna is the state ambassador in critical times. 

^6) The Akiniku. — The real duties of this officer are not known. 

(7) The Asipa as the last of them performs the duties of the 
junior. He is called the " Ojuwa," i.e. the one who distributes 
whatever presents are given to the Oyo Mesi. The Basorun in 


these cases has always the lion's share viz., one half of the whole, 
the other half being equally divided between the rest of them. 

The Asipa of the present Oyo being the son of Oja the founder 
of the town, has the chief voice in all municipal affairs. He is 
thereby acknowledged to be the master of the town. 

The provincial kings and ruhng princes rank also as the noblemen 
of the first-class. 

B. The E§qs 

Next in importance to the Oyo Mesi and of a rank below them 
are the Esos or guardians of the kingdom. These constitute the 
noblemen of the second class. They also are addressed as " Iba." 
It is a military title, not necessarily hereditary. It is the reward of 
merit alone, and none but tried and proved soldiers are selected 
for that rank. 

First and foremost among them and apart by himself stands the 
Kakanfo, an Esq of the Esos. Then the 70 captains of the guard 
ten of whom are under each of the seven councillors. Each wears 
an Akoro (or coronet) and carries in his hand no weapon, but a baton 
or staff of war known as The Invincible. 
There is a common saying which runs thus : — 
" Ohun meji I'o ye Eso 
Esg ja O le ogan 
Esq ja O ku si ogun." 
One of two things befits an E§g 
The 5so mast fight and conquer (or) 
The E§o must fight and peiish (in war). 
He is never to turn his back, he must be victorious or die in war. 
There is another saying : — 

" Esq ki igba Oik lehin 
Afi bi o ba gbogbe niwaju gangan." 
An Esq must never be shot in the back 
His wounds must always be right in front. 
Also another saying : — 

" Alakoro ki isa ogun." 
One who wears a coronet must never flee in battle. 
They are of two ranks 16 superior and 54 inferior, 70 in all 
and they all must reside in the capital. 


The following 

are the titles 

of the former, 

all of which 

significant : — 


Esq Qraiiyan 
















So much is this title thought of by military men and others 
and so great is the enthusiasm it inspires, that even the children 
and grandchildren of an Esq hold themselves bound to maintain 
the spirit and honour of their sires. The Eso is above everything 
else noble in act and deed. 

" Emi omo Eso " (me born of an Eso) is a proud phrase generally 
used even to this day by any ot their descendants to show their 
scorn for anything mean or low, or their contempt tor any difficulty, 
danger, or even death itself. 

Most of the Egba chiefs sprang from the Esgs of Qyq, Okukemu 
the first " king " of Ab§okuta was a Sagbua, 

A special notice must now be taken of the Kakanfo who stands 
at the head of the Esos. 

The Kakanfo. The title given in full is Are-Ona-Kakanfo. 
It is a title akin to a field-marshal, and is conferred upon the 
greatest soldier and tactician ot the day. 

This title was introduced into the Yoruba country by King 
AjACBO, one of the earliest and most renowned of Yoruba Kings. 

Like the Ilaris, at the time of his taking office, he is first to 
shave his head completely, and 201 incisions are made on his 
occiput, with 201 different lancets and specially prepared ingredi- 
ents from 201 viols are rubbed into the cuts, one lor each. This is 
supposed to render him fearless and courageous. They are always 
shaved, but the hair on the inoculated part is allowed to grow 
long, and when plaited, forms a tuft or a sort of pigtail. 

Kakanfos are generally very stubborn and obstinate. They 
have all been more or less troublesome, due it is supposed to the 
effect of the ingredients they were inoculated with. In war, they 
carry no weapon but a baton known as the " King's invincible 
staff." It is generally understood that they are to give way to 
no one not even to the King, their master. Hence Kakanfos are 
never created in the capital but in any other town in the kingdom. 

There can be but one Kakanfo at a time. By virtue of his office 
he is to go to war once in 3 years to whatever place the King named, 
and, dead or aUve, to return home a Victor, or be brought home a 
corpse within three months. 

The ensigns of office are : — 

1. The Ojijiko. This is a cap made of the red feathers of the 
parrot's tail, with a projection behind reaching as far down as the 

2. An apron of leopard's skin, and a leopard's skin to sit on 

3. The Asis6 or pigtail as above described. 

4. The Staff Invincible. 


The following are the Kakanfos who have ever borne office 
in the Yoruba country : — 

1. Kokoro gangan of Iw6ye 

2. Oyatope ,, 

3. Oyabi ,, Ajase 

4. Adeta ,, Jabata 

5. Oku ,, Jabata 

6. Aignja I'aiya I'ok^ ,, Ilorin 

7. Toyeje ,, Ogbomoso 

8. Edun ,, Gbogun 

9. Amep6 ,, Abem6 

10. Kurumi ,, Ijaye 

11. Ojo Aburumaku „ Ogbomoso (son of Toyej§) 

12. Latosisa ,, Ibadan the last to hold office. 

Nearly the whole of them were connected with stirring times and 
upheavals in the country. Afonja of Ilorin, Toyeje of Ogbomoso 
Kurumi of Ijaye, and Latosisa of Ibadan being specially famous. 
Ojo Aburumaku of fought no battles, there being no 
wars daring the period ; the change that has taken place in the 
country left the Ibadans at this time masters of all warlike oper- 
ations. But in order to keep his hand in, he fomented a civil 
war at Ogbomoso wliich he also repressed with vigour. 

Provincial Governments and Titles 

Every town, village or hamlet is under a responsible head, 
either a provincial " king" or a Bale (mayor). In every case 
the title is hereditary (excepting at Ibadan) as such heads are 
invariably the founder or descendants ot the founder of their town. 

The provincial kings are styled the lords of their town or district, 
and from it they take their title, e.g. : — 

The Onikoyi, lord of Ikoyi ; Aseyin, lord of Iseyin ; Alake, 
lord or Ake ; Olowu, lord of Owu ; Oluiwo, lord of Iwo ; Alakija, 
lord of Ikija, etc. There are a few exceptions to this rule, where the 
first ruler had a distinctive name or title before he became the 
head of the town or district, e.g. : — 

Timi of Ede, Atawoja of Osogbo, Awujadg of Ijebu, Okere of 
Saki, Onibode of Igboho, etc., in which case the distinctive name 
becomes the hereditary title of the chief ruler. 

A provincial king is, of course, higher than a Bale as a duke or 
an earl is higher than a mayor. They are privileged to build 
kobis to their palaces, and to create Ilaris which Bales are not 
entitled to do. They are also allowed an Akoro (coronet) which 
Bales are not allowed to have ; but few of them indulge in large 


state umbrellas. They are invested originally with power from 
Oyo whither they usually repair to obtain their titles, the sword 
of justice being given them by the AlAfin at their installation. 
Every one of them as well as every important Balg has an official 
at Oyo through whom they can communicate with the crown. 

They are also invested with an Qpaga by which they are em- 
powered to make and keep an Ilari. The Qpaga is an iron instru- 
ment of the shape of an Osain, but taller and is surmounted with the 
figure of a bird. This is the Qsain worshipped b}' Ilaris. To be 
deprived of it is equivalent to being deprived oi one's rank. 

To dethrone a kingling, he is publicly divested of his robe 
and sandals and the announcement is made that XYZ having 
forfeited his title, he is deprived of it by AB his suzerain or teudal 

The following are the kinglings in the Oyo provinces. 

1. In the Ekun Osi or Metropohtan province : — • 

The Onikoyi of Ikoyi ; Olugbon of Igbon ; Aresa of Iresa ; 
the Ompetu of Ijeru ; Olofa of Ofa. 

2. In the Ekun Otun province : — 

Sabigana of Igana ; Oniwere of Iwere ; ^Alasia of Asia ; Onjo 
of Oke'ho ; Bagijan of Igijan ; Okere of Saki ; Alapata of Ibode ; 
Ona Onibode of Igboho ; Elerinpo of Ipapo ; Ikihisi ol Kihisi ; 
As§yin of Is§yin ; Alado of Ado ; Eleruwa of Eruwa ; Qloje of 

3. In the Ibolg province : — 

The Akirun ot Ikirun ; Olobu of Ilobu; Timi of Ede. the Ata- 
woja of Osogbo ; Adimula of Ife Odan. 

4. In the Epo province : 

The Oluiwo of Iwo ; Ondese of Idese. 

Of these vassal kings the Onikoyi, Olugbon, the Aresa and the 
Timi are the most ancient. 

Since the wave of Fulani invasion swept away the first 
three, those titles exist only in name. The Onikoyi has a 
quarter at Ibadan, the bulk of the Ikoyi people being at Ogbomoso, 
the family is still extant and the title kept up.* The same may be 
said of the Aresa at Ilorin. But wherever the representative head 
of the family may be, he is completely subject to the ruler of the 
town, be he a Bale or a king. Thus the Olugbon at Ogbomoso 
is subject to the Balgof Ogbomoso, the Aresa to the king or Emir 

^ The Alasia is the only man privileged not to prostrate before 
the Alafin in salutation according to the custom ot the country. 
He sits on a stool with his back turned towards him. 

* The town has been rebuilt and the Onikoyi returned home in 


of Ilorin, and similarly the Olowu at Abeokuta is nominally subject 
to the Alake, the primus of the Egba chiefs. 

In the Ekun Osi and Ekun Otun provinces, no special remarks 
are called for in the arrangement of the titles in the government ; 
they are for the most part a modified form of the Oyo titles. 

IbglQ titles. — Amongst the Ibglgs the royal family is called 
Omolaisin. The title next to that of the king which answers to the 
Basorun is the Osa, next to the Osa comes the Aro, then the 
Odofin and then the Ejemu. These are the principal councillors. 
The other subordinate titles are chiefly military viz., the Jagun 
and his heutenants the Olukotun and Olukosi. Then the Agbakin, 
Gbonka, Asipa which are Oyo titles that have been borrowed. 
Then the Saguna, Sakgtun, Sakosi, Asape, Oladifi Esinkin, and 
the Ar'oguny6. 

The Elesije is the chief physician. 

Smaller towns are governed by the Bale, and the Jagun (or 
Balogun) is the next to him. In time of war, the Bale appoints 
the Jagun to go with the Kakanfo to any expedition to which the 
AlAfin may send the latter ; but if it is a great expedition to which 
he appoints the Onikoyi, all the other vassal kings, and the Bales 
of every town were bound to go with him. The affairs of the town 
are then left to be administered by the Bale Agbe, i.e. the chief of 
the farmers. The duties of the Bale Agbe on ordinary occasions 
are to superintend the tax collectors, and to assist the Jagun who 
superintends the cleaning ot the roads. 

The Iy.\lode, i.e. the queen of the ladies is a title bestowed 
upon the most distinguished lady in the town. She has also 
her lieutenants Otun, Osi, Ekcrin, etc., as any of the other principal 
chiefs of the town. Some of these lyalodes command a force of 
powerful warriors, and have a voice in the council of the chiefs. 
Through the lyalode, the women of the town can make their 
voices heard in municipal and other affairs. 

The King's civil officers judge all minor cases, but all important 
matters are transferred to the AlAfin of Oyo whose decision and 
laws were as unalterable as those of the ancient Medes and Persians. 

The Egba Province 

" Egba k6 I'Olu, gbogbo won ni nse bi Oba (i.e. Egbas have 
no king all of them act like a king), is a common saying. That 
is to say, they have no king that rules. The king is acknowledged 
as the head of the government, but only as a figure head. More 
marked was this when they lived in separate townships before 
their concentration at Abeokuta. The Ogbonis constitute the 
town council, and they are also the executive, and even the 


" king" was subject to them. The same rule holds good even 
at Abeokuta for each township. 

Amongst the highest Ogboni titles are : — 

The Aro, Oluwo, Apena, Ntowa, Bala, Basala Baki, Asipa, 
Asalu, Lajila, Apesi, Esinkin Ola, Bayimbo, Odgfin. 

The warriors rank next after the Ogbonis, the Balogun and the 
Seriki being the most important. 

The Ijebu Province 

Among the Ijebus the civil authorities are of three divisions, 
viz., the Osugbos or Ogboni, 2, the Ipampa, and 3 the Lamurin. 
Without these acting in concert, no law can be enacted or repealed. 
Of these bodies, the Osugbos are the highest for even the king him- 
self must be of that fraternity. The Lamurins are the lowest. 

Amongst the Egbas and Ijebus, the Ogbonis are the chief 
executive, they have the power of life and death, and power to 
enact and to repeal laws : but in the Oyo provinces the Ogbonis 
have no such power ; they are rather a consultative and advisory 
body, the king or Bale being supreme, and only matters involving 
bloodshed are handed over to the Ogbonis for judgment or for 
execution as the king sees fit. 

The actual executioners at Oyo are the Tetus, amongst the 
Ibglos, the Jagun, and in the Epo districts the Akgdas or sword 
bearers of the principal chiefs, acting together. 

The Ijesa and Ekiti Provinces 

In the Ijega and Ekiti provinces the form of government is 
more or less alike, with slight modifications. The tendency is to 
adopt the Oyo forms ; but they have some admirable systems of 
their own. The municipal arrangements of the Ijesas are quite 

It has been mentioned above that there are 16 provincial 
kings recognised in the Ekiti province under four principal ones. 
The title of Owa is a generic term for them all, including that of 
Ilesa. The Owa of Ilesa stands by himself, for the Ekitis hold the 
Ijesas separate from themselves. 

The Orangun of Ila is sometimes reckoned amongst the Ekitis ; 
but he is not an Ekiti although his sympathies are with them. 
He aims at being the head of the Igbomina tribes, but Ila seems 
to stand by itself. 

Titles in ancient times may be obtained by competition, and it 
was not always the most worthy but the highest bidder that 
often obtained them. 

Chapter V 

The naming of a child is an important affair amongst the 
Yorubas ; it is always attended with some ceremonies. These of 
course differ somewhat, amongst the different tribes. 

The naming usually takes place on the 9th day of birth if a 
male, or on the 7th if a female ; if they happen to be twins of 
both sexes, it will be on the 8th day. Moslem children of either 
sex are invariably named on the 8th day. 

It is on that day the child is for the first time brought out of 
the room, hence the term applied to this event — Ko omg jade 
(bringing out the child). The mother also, is supposed to be 
in the lying-in room up to that day. 

The ceremony is thus performed : — The principal members 
of the family and friends having assembled early in the morning 
of the day, the child and its mother being brought out of the 
chamber, a j ugf ul of water is tossed up to the roof (all Yoruba houses 
being low-roofed), and the baby in the arms of the nurse or an 
elderly female member of the family, is brought under the eaves 
to catch the spray, the baby yells, and the relatives shout for joy. 
The child is now named by the parents and elderly members of 
the family, and festivities follow ; with presents, however trifling, 
for the baby from every one interested in him. 

This is evidently an ancient practice, a form of baptism which 
the ancestors of the Yorubas must have derived from the eastern 
lands, where tradition says they had their origin, and is another 
proof of the assertion that their ancestors had some knowledge 
of Christianity. 

In some cases there is also the offering of sacrifice and 
consultation of the household oracle on the child's behalf. 

For the sake of convenience we call this the Christening of the 
child. There are three sets of names a child can possibly have, 
although not every child need have the three ; one at least will 
be inapplicable. 

1. The Amutorunwa i.e. the name the child is born with. 

2. The AhisQ i.e. the christening name. 

3. The Oriki i.e. the cognomen or attributive name. 

A few remarks on each of these sets of names will serve to 
elucidate their meanings. 



I. The Amutqrunwa 

r A child is said to be "born with a name" {lit. brought from 
heaven) when the peculiar circumstance of its birth may be 
expressed by a name which is apphcable to all children born under 
like circumstances. The most important of these is twin-births. 
No condition is invested with an air of greater importance, or has 
a halo of deeper mystery about it, than that of twin-births ; 
the influence is felt even upon children that may be born after 
them. Twins in Yoruba are almost credited with extra-human 
powers, although among some barbarous tribes they are regarded 
as monsters to be despatched at once. 

Taixvo or Eho. — The name of the first born of twins, applicable 
to either sex. It is a shortened form of To-aiye-w6 (have the 
first taste of the world). The idea is that the first born was sent 
forward to announce the coming of the latter, and he is considered 
the younger of the two. [Compare the stories of Esau and Jacob, 
and of Pharez and Zarah,in both of which the first born of the twins 
virtually became the younger of the two.] 

Kehinde " He who lags behind," i.e. the second born. 
tdowu. The child born after twins, male or female, Idowus 
are cdways considered heady and stubborn, hence their usual 

appellation " J)su lehiu ibeji " (the d 1 after twins). There is 

also a current superstition that the mother who has had twins 
and fails to get an Idowu in due course, may likely go mad ; the 
wild and stubborn Idowu " flying into her head " will render her 
insane ! Hence all mothers of twins are never at ease until in 
due course the Idowu is born. 

Idogbe. — The child after Idowu if male. 
Alaba, — The child after Idowu if female. 

Thus we see the influence of the twins affecting the second and 
third births after themselves. 

Eia Okd. — The name given to the third of triplets. 
The next to twins in importance is the child named Oni Oni. 
This name is given to a small neurotic child which at its birth 
cries incessantly day and night. The child after Oni is called 
Ola, the next O^^^nla, and so on. 

These names signify to-day, to-morrow, the day after to-morrow, 
etc. With a small tribe termed the Isih people, it is carried on 
as far as Ijgni i.e. the 8th day, if the mother have as many. 

Asa or Oroyh are names applied under conditions similar to 
those of Oni by some clans. The latter is generally preferred 
by worshippers of the god Orisa Oko. 
Igh is a child born with breech or footling presentation. 


llgri is a child who was conceived during absence of menstru- 

Qtnope signfies " the child is late " that is, a child born later 
than the normal period of utero-gestation. 

Ojo or Aina is a child born with the cord twined round its neck. 
The choice of name is a matter of preference partly clannish or 
by the decision of the family Oracle. Ojo, however, is never 
given to females, Aina may be male or female. 

Ajayi is a child born "with face downwards" it is styled 
Adojude, that is to say, when rotation is absent during the exit 
of the shoulders. 

Oke is a name given to a child which faints away on being fed 
in a horizontal position as is the custom of the country. 

Oke (a bag) is a child born with membranes unruptured. 

Salako (male), Talabi (female), a child born with the head and 
body covered with the caul, or ruptured membranes. 

Dada is a curly-headed child styled " Olowo Ori." 

Olugbodi is a child born With supernumerary digits. 

Abigna means " born by the way side." i.e. a child born when the 
mother is on a journey, or away from home. 

Abiodun born at the new year or any annual festival. 

Abiose born on a holy day. 

Babatunde means " father comes again," a name given to 
a male child born soon after the death of its grandfather. The 
sire is supposed to re-appear in the newly born. 

Abiba is applied to a female under similar circumstances. 

Yetunde means " mother comes again " a name given to a female 
child born soon after the death of its grandmother. The granny 
is supposed to re-appear in the newly born. 

Babarimisa (father fled at my approach) is the name given to a 
posthumous child. 

Jg'hdJQ a child whose mother died at its birth (Ichabodlike) 
or during the puerperium. 

II, — The Abiso or Christening Name 

All children need not be " born with a name " but all must 
be named. Names are not given at random because of their 
euphony or merely because a distinguished member of the family 
or of the community was so named, but of a set purpose from 
circumstances connected with the child itself, or with reference 
to the family fortunes at the time etc. Hence the saying : — " He 
la iw6 kia to so omo I'oruko (the state of the house must first be\ 
considered before naming a child). The names then are always 



significant of something, either with reference to the child itself 
or to the family. 

A child may have two or more christening names given it 
one by each parent or grandparents if living or by any elderly 
member of the family. Whichever is most expressive of the present 
circumstances of the family will be the one to stick. 

(a) Names having reference to the child itself directly and indirectly 

to the family : — 
Ayodele Joy enters the house. 

Onipede The consoler is come. 

Morenike I have some one to pet. 

Moseb'olatan Joy hitherto despaired of. 
Omoteji A child big enough for two. 

Akinyele A strong one befits the house. 

Ibiyemi Good birth becomes me. 

Ibiyinka Surrounded by children. 

Ladipo Increase honour (of children born). 

(b) Names having reference to the family directly and indirectly 

to the child itself : — 

Ogundalenu Our home has been devastated by war. 
Otegbeye Warfare deprived us of our honours. 

Ogunmola The river Ogun took away our honour, 

lyapib Many trials. 

Olabisi Increased honours. 

Laniyonu Honour is full of troubles, 

Kurumi Death has impoverished me. 

Oyebisi Increased titles. 

(c) Names compounded of Ade, Ola, Olu, Oye originally belonged 

to one of high or princel}^ birth, but are now used more or 

less indiscriminately : — 

Adebiyi The crown has begotten this. 

Adegbite The crown demands a throne. 

Olaleye Honour comes fittingly, or is full of dignity. 

Olubiyi A chief has begotten this. 

Oyeyemi Title becomes me. 

Oyewole Title enters the house i.e. where the parent 

has a title. 

N.B. — Ade does not always signify a crown, it may be taken 

from the verb de to arrive, it may then mean coming, e.g., 

Adebisi or I ., 

. , . t My commg causes an increase. 

Adesina My coming opens the way. 

Adepeju My coming completes the number (of births) 

Adepoju The coming has become too much. 


(d) Some names are compounded with fetish names showing the 
deity worshipped in the family : — 

Sangobunmi Sango (the god of thunder and Hghtning) 
gave me this. 

Ogundipe Ogun (the god of war) consoles me with this. 

Ogunseye Ogun has done the becoming thing. 

Omi yale The god of streams visits the house. 

Oba-bunmi The King (i.e. god of small pox) gave me this 

Fabunni Ifa has given me this. 

Fatosin Ifa is worthy to be worshipped. 

Fafumke Ifa gave me this to pet. 

Osuntoki Osun is worthy of praise or honour. 

It msLy be noted that names compounded with Ifa are very 
common amongst the Ijesas which shows that they are devoted 
Ifa worshippers. 

(<;) Compounds of Ode shows that the father is a worshipper of 
Ogun or Erinlc : — 

Odewale Ode comes to the house i.e. visits the family. 

Odemuyiwa Ode has brought me this. 
These names are often confounded with Adewale and 

(/) Compounds of Oso or Efun shows that the family is a 
v/orshipper of Orisa Oko i.e. the god of the fields : — 

Osodipe Oso has granted a consolation. 

Osodeke Oso has become a roof i.e. shield and shelter. 

Efunsetan Efun has done it (by granting the child). 

Efunlabi Efun is the one born. 

(g) Compounds of Oje are peculiar to the children of Elewi of Ado. 
Names pecuUar to the royal family of Oyo : — 

Male : Afgnja, Tela, Ajuan. 

Female : — Ogboja, Siye, Akere. 
Yoruba names are with few exceptions common to both genders. 
Ojo and Akerele, however, are never applied to females. Also 
names compounded oi Akin which means strength ; and, of course, 
such names as Babatunde, Babarimisa can only apply to males, 
and Yetunde to females. 

Abiku Names 

There are some peculiar names given to a certain class of children 
called " Abiku " i.e. born to die. These are supposed to belong 
to a fraternity of demons living in the woods, especially about and 
within large Iroko trees ; and each one of them coming into the 


world would have arranged beforehand the precise time he will 
return to his company. 

Where a woman has lost several children in infancy, especially 
after a short period of illness, the deaths are attributed to this 
cause, and means are adopted to thwart the plans of these infants 
in order that they may stay ; for if they can only tide over the 
pre-arranged date, they may go no more, and thus entirely forget 
their company. 

Besides charms that are usually tied on them and ugly marks 

'they are branded with, in order that their old company may 

refuse the association of disfigured comrades which must oblige 

them to stay, certain significant names are also given to them in 

order to show that their object has been anticipated. 

Such are the following names : — 

Malomo Do not go again. 

Kosokg There is no hoe (to dig a grave with). 

Banjoko Sit down (or stay) with me. 

Durosinmi Wait and bury me. 

Jekiniyin Let me have a bit of respect. 

Akisatan No more rags (to bury you with). 

Apara One who comes and goes. 

Oku The dead. 

Igbek6yi Even the bush wont have this. 

Enu-kun-onipe The consoler is tired. 

Akuji Dead and awake. 

Tiju-iku Be ashamed to die. 

Duro-ori-ike Wait and see how you will be petted. 

Periodical feasts are usually made for these children of which 
beans and a liberal quantity of palm oil must form a principal 
dish. To this children of their age and others are invited, and their 
company of demons, although unseen are supposed to be present 
and partake of these viands. This is supposed to appease them 
and reconcile them to the permanent stay of their comrade, so 
that they may always have such to feed upon. 

This superstition accounts for a rather high rate of infant 
mortality, for parents are thereby led away from the proper treat- 
ment of their ailments, while occupying themselves in making 
charms to defeat the purpose of imaginary demons ! 

It is fair, however to add that thoughtful men have begun to 
perceive the absurdity of this superstition, for many have been 
heard to say " There is really no such thing as Abiku ; disease and 
hereditary taints are the true causes of infantile mortahty." 


III. — The Oriki or Cognomen or Pet Names 

This is an attributive name, expressing what the child is, or 
what he or she is hoped to become. If a male it is always expressive 
of something heroic, brave, or strong ; if a female, it is a term of 
endearment or of praise. In either case it is intended to have a 
stimulating effect on the individual. 

Yorubas are always particular to distinguish between the 
Oruko (name) and the Oriki (cognomen or attributive). 
Male attributive names :-=— 

Ajamu One who seizes after a fight. 

Ajagbe One who carries off after a contest. 

Akunyun One who buzzes to and fro 
Ajani One who possesses after a struggle. 

Alawo One who divides and smashes up. 

Ak h' I ^"^ conceived after a single touch. 

Alabi or ) Is a male that comes after several female 

Alade ) births. 

Female attributive names : — 

Amoke Whom to know is to pet. 

Aygka One who causes joy all around. 

Abebi One born after a supplication. 

Apinke To be petted from hand to hand. 

Akanke To meet whom is to pet. 

Asabi One of select birth. 

Aw^ro One to be washed and dressed up. 

Alake One to be petted if she survives. 

The use of the attributive name is so common that many children \ 
are better known by it than by their real names. Some do not ^^ 
even know their own real names when the attributive is popular. 
But there is a method in the use of it ; as a rule, only children 
are addressed by their Oriki by their elders, especially when they 
wish to express a feeling of endearment for the child. It is con- 
sidered impertinent for a younger person to call an elder by his 
Oriki or pet name. 

Certain names carry their own attributive with them e.g. 
Adeniji (the crown has a shadow), the attributive to this is Apata 
.(a rock). Hence Adeniji Apata, Apata ni iji i.e. Adeniji is a rock, a 
rock that casts out its shadow. 

IV. — The Orile or Totem 

This is about the best place to take note of this singular system. 
The term Orile denotes the foundation or origin ; and is of an 
immense importance in the tracing of a pedigree. Each one 


denotes a parent stock. The Orile is not a name, it denotes the 
family origin or Totem. The real meaning of this is lost in obscurity. 
Some say they were descended from the object named, which must 
be a myth; others that the object was the ancient god of the 
family, the giver of the children and other earthly blessings, 
or that the family is in some way connected with it. 

The Totem represents every conceivable object e.g. Erin (the 
elephant), Ogun (the god of war), Opo (post), Agbo (a ram), 
etc. The number of totems of course is large, representing as 
each does a distinct family. Some families, however, have become 
extinct, and some obscure ones there are who have lost their totems. 
A married woman cannot adopt her husband's totem, much 
less his name. Intermarriages within the same totem was 
originally not allowed, as coming within the degree of consanguinity 
but now the rule is not rigidly observed. The children both boys 
and girls take their father's totem, except in rare cases, where the 
father has lost his, or more usually when the mother's indicates 
a higher or nobler rank. Some girls of noble birth will marry 
below their rank, but would have their children brought up in 
their own home, and among their father's children, and adopt 
his totem. An illegitimate child if not acknowledged by the 
supposed father cannot adopt his totem but the mother's, 
especially if a female. 

The following are some distinguished Totems : — 

Erin, the elephant, the totem of the original line of the Kings. 

Ogun, the god of war, the totem of the original line of the 

Both were merged in King Abiodun, who chose to adopt 
his mother's totem, the Basoruns being pre-eminent in 
those days. Hence the present line of Alafins' is Ogun. 

Opo (a post). The totem of a noble Oyg family. 

Okin (the love bird) Totem of the Olofa and the Oloro. 

Iko ,, Onigusun. 

Agan ,, Elese. 

Edu ,, Onigbayi. 

Ojo (rain) ,, Ologbin. 

Agbe or Ade ,, Olukoyi. 

Agbo (a ram) ,, Ajagusi father of Erinle. 

Oge ,, Enira and the Onipe. 

Ekan ,, Olufan 

Elo ,, Elerin. 

Eri ,, Oloyan 

Tji ,, Onigbeti. 

Ogo ,, Ijesa families. 



WTien the Orukg (name) the Oriki (attributive) and the Orile 
(totem) are given, the individual becomes distinctive, the family 
is known, and he can at any time be traced. 

Two men may be found with the same name, but rarely with 
the same cognomen together, and more rarely still with the same 
totem as well. The man is universally known by his Oruko 
(name) familiarly by his Oriki (attributive). The Oriki is always 
used in conjunction with his Orile (the family stock or totem) 
expressed or understood : always expressed when endearment or 
admiration is intended. The Orile of course is nevef used by itself 
as it would be meaningless. 

A name given in full will appear thus : — 












Ibiyemi , 


































children although n 

amed trom 

the Arabic 

: calendar 

yet must have their Oriki and ( 

Drile ; thus 

: — 




1 Fatumg 




Irregularities Introduced 

The introduction of Christianity and the spread of British 
influence over the country have been the causes of great irregulari- 
ties in names which one meets with now in the Yoruba country. 

The early missionaries, notably those of Sierra Leone, abolished 
native names wholesale, considering them " heathenish," and 
substituted European names instead : such names are naturally 
transmitted to their children anglice, hence the incongruities 
of names that puzzle a foreigner on his first landing in West Africa. 

But with more enlightenment and better knowledge, a gradual 
change is coming over this ; educated Yorubas cannot see why 
Philip Jones or Geoffrey Williams should be more Christian than 
Adewale or Ibiyemi ; he knows what these mean, the former to 
him are but mere sounds, nor are their meanings — even wh( n 
known — an improvement on his own. 

But nothing sticks so fast as a name, and nothing more difficult 
to eradicate ; for even in spite of the better knowledge Christians 
still give to their children foreign names although in conjunction 
with a Yoruba name. That an English name should be given at 


all can hardly be contended to be necessary, but the practice is 
defended by many who plead for it a universal custom, e.g. that 
a convert to Mohammedanism adopts a Moslem or Arabic 
name ; analogously therefore only Biblical names ought to be 
given, but in the British West African colonies, Yoruba and other 
tribes with Christian names include English, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, 
German and Dutch names ! 

But there is another consideration that helps to rivet the yoke. 
It invariably appears that most of those who have EngHsh or other 
foreign names, are in some way connected with English education 
and with Christianity, and are certainly in a way more enlightened 
than their pagan brethren, or considered to be so ; hence it comes 
to pass, that many who originally were free from the brand of a 
foreign name, nevertheless still regard it as a mark of enhghten- 
ment, and would voluntarily adopt one or more with their own 
real names in order to be considered " up-to-date ! " Nothing 
but a thoroughly sound education all round (and not limited to 
individuals here and there) can remedy this evil : but in the mean- 
time educated Yorubas are losing the knowledge and the genius 
of the method of Yorubas in naming their children. Thus according 
to the system now prevailing, where one English name is given 
or adopted, it is used as the first name, and the Yoruba name as 
the second or surname, e.g. James Adesina. Where two Enghsh 
names are given the Yoruba is placed either in the middle as James 
Adesina Williams, or at the end, as James Williams Adesina. 
The reason for this want of system is due to the introduction of 
another element unknown to Yorubas and is, therefore, a compli- 
cation, viz., the prefix of Mr. to the names. This is foreign to Yoruba 
genius arid language and makes a hybrid mixture, as it would 
appear if attached to any historic Biblical name ! The essence of 
the incongruity in this matter lies in the conversion of Yoruba 
names into a surname or family name and it is in this particular 
that the most appalling absurdity occurs. Thus some retain 
their own Yoruba name as a family name to the exclusion of their 
father's. Others use their father's name as a surname and suppress 
their own native name or use it as a middle name. Some adopt 
a brother's name as a family name if he is considered more eminent, 
thus excluding the father's name and suppressing their own. 
Some use the father's " Amutorunwa" as Taiwo, Idowu, Ige. 
Some use the father's " Abiso " as Adejumo Layode, etc. Some 
use the father's Oriki as Akawo, Alade, Ajasa, some use the 
father's title as Apena, Dawodu, Mogaji, etc. All this in order — 
as is alleged — to make the individual distinctive but as a matter 
of fact to make the Yoruba conform to the English method, 


because that is considered more civilized ! Some ridiculous results 
have thereby been obtained e.g. a woman is called Mrs. Taiwo, 
who was not twin-born, and probably her husband was not either, 
but it may be his father or his uncle ! One fails to see how that 
system makes her distinctive among thousands of Taiwos in the 
land whilst it is so inappropriate. 

A man was called Babarimisa because he was a posthumous 
child ; on his becoming " civilized " his children according to the 
English system of transmitting names became so many masters 
and misses " Babarimisas " with himself alive I And yet these 
absurdities are supposed to be necessary to Christianity and 
civilization ! But when we remember that the fathers of western 
civilization, as also the founders of Christianity with the early 
Christians and martyrs have transmitted their names down to 
history in a simple form as Yoruba names, it becomes evident 
that the present method is not essential to Christianity or 

And even now, we know that the familiar English method 
does not prevail all over Europe, not even all over Britain, for 
in the north of Scotland, it is usual for married women to retain 
their maiden names, and children take their father's Christian names 
for their own surnames, and yet, not only are the Scotch a highly 
civilized people, they are also intensely Christian. From all this 
we may learn that it is not necessary to do violence to an original 
language as the Yoruba in order to be considered civilized or 
Christian. Whatever incongruities may have been perpetrated 
in the past, it behoves those who are responsible for the keeping 
of the language in its purity to cease from inflicting these anomalies 
on those brought under their influence, especially among converts 
to Christianity. 

Neither Christianity nor civilization requires a man's name to be 
given to his wife or children, considering the purpose for which 
children are named amongst the Yorubas. 

On the coast, the corruption of the Yoruba language is pro- 
ceeding at a rapid pace. What began with the names is now extend- 
ing to phrases and expressions which are idiomatic English in 
Yoruba words. The writer thinks it will require a strong effort 
to preserve the Yoruba language in its purity. 

Chapter VI 


All Yoruba towns with very few exceptions are built on one 
uniform plan, and the origin of most of them is more or less the 
same, and all have certain identical features. A cluster of huts 
around the farmstead of an enterprising farmer may be the starting 
point : perhaps a halting place for refreshments in a long line 
of march between two towns. In any case it is one individual 
that first attracts others to the spot ; if the site be on the highway 
to a large town, or in a caravan route, so much the better ; the 
wives of the farmers ever ready to cater refreshments for wearied 
travellers render the spot in time a recognised halting place : the 
more distant from a town, the more essential it necessarily 
must be as a resting place ; if a popular resort, a market soon 
springs up in the place, into which neighbouring farmers bring 
their wares for sale, and weekly fairs held : market sheds are built 
all over the place and it becomes a sort of caravanserai or sleeping 
place for travellers. 

As soon as houses begin to spring up and a village or hamlet 
formed, the necessity for order and control becomes apparent. 
The men would thereupon assemble at the gate of the principal 
man who has attracted people to the place and formally recognise 
him as the Bale or Mayor of the village (Ht. father of the land) 
and thenceforth the mayoralty becomes perpetuated in his family, 
with a member of the family either the son or the brother or a 
cousin, succeeding in perpetuity. This however is the only 
hereditary title in the village. The house of the Bale becomes the 
official residence, and is thenceforth kept in good repairs by the 
men of the town, and the frontage of his house becomes the 
principal market of the town. 

The Bale having been elected, he in turn appoints his Otun 
(or right hand man), Osi (the left) and other civil officers of a town. 
Even in this early stage, the necessity for defence is felt ; the 
bravest man among them will be chosen as the Jagun or Balogun 
and he in turn picks out his heutenants, so that in any matter 
that may spring up, either civil or mihtary everybody knows his 
duty and whom to look up to. 

The village must necessarily be answerable to the nearest town 
from which it sprang and thus an embryo town is formed. There 



are cases in which an influential personage with a large following 
deliberately built a town, and is from the beginning the recognised 
head of the same. 

In fact if there are but half a dozen huts in the place, that of 
the headman or embryo Bale would be recognised. 

From this we see how it is that the principal market of the town 
is always in the centre of the town and in the front of the house of 
the chief ruler. This rule is without an exception and hence the 
term Oloja (one having a market) is used as a generic term or title/ 
of all chief rulers of a town be he a King or a Bale. 

Minor chiefs also have smaller markets in front of their houses. 
Market squares as a rule mark out the frontage of a chief or a 
distinguished man, and the principal entrance to his compound 
is marked out by its having a street verandah added to it right 
and left, and if a King two or more kobis are added to the street 
verandah. The larger the town, the larger the principal market 
to which everyone resorts for morning and evening marketings 
and is the general rendezvous of the town on every national or 
municipal occasion. It is planted all over with shady trees for 
sellers and loungers of an evening. The central market also 
contains the principal mosque of the town, and the fetish temple 
of the chief ruler, if he be a pagan. 

Every town is walled, deep trenches are dug all round it outside, 
the more exposed to attack the more substantial the wall and 
for the greater security of smaller towns a bush or thicket called 
Igbo He (home forest) is kept, about half to one mile from the 
walls right round the town. This forms a security against a sudden 
cavalry attack, and a safe ambush for defence, as well as hiding 
places in a defeat or sudden hostile irruption. The tall trees in 
them are sometimes used as a watch tower to observe the move- 
ments of the enemy : except in of profound peace, it is penal 
to cut trees in the home forest. Highways are made through them 
straight to the town gate, and are always kept in excellent repair. 

Towns in the plain that are greatly exposed to sudden attacks, or 
those that have had to stand long sieges have a second or outer wall 
enclosing a large area which is used for farming during a siege. 
This wall is called " Odi Amola " (wall of safety), sometimes it 
is called " Odi Amonu " (wall of ruin) as the wall has been to them 
the means of safety, or has been unavailing for its purpose. 

The town gates are always massive and a gateman lives in a 
house adjoining the town wall, he collects the tolls from passers by. 
Market people have a fixed amount to pay, varying from 40 to 
200 cowries, and farm people contribute a trifle from whatever 
they are bringing home, a head or two of corn, a handful of beans, 


a yam or two, a few dry sticks and so forth, for his sustenance, 
r' The gates are named after the most important town they lead to. 
^ Each of these gates is in charge of a chief who is responsible to the 
town for whatever may occur there or along the route to which it 
leads right on to the frontier, also for keeping the walls of that 
part in good repairs, as well as the highway leading out of the town. 
This chief it is who is to put his servant there for collecting tolls, 
the amount to be collected from each person being fixed by the Town 
Council. This servant is expected to pay to his master a certain 
sum every 9 or 18 days, being the average of what the gate yields. 
Whatever surplus there may be in a brisk season, he appropriates 
to himself or if there is a deficit, he is expected to make it good. 

In Yoruba Proper (including the Egbas) streets are not properly 
made or named except large thoroughfares leading to town gates, 
and the squares and markets of chiefs. 

It does not appear that any care is ever taken to choose the site 
of a town, as the neighbourhood of large streams : wells are 
sunk by individuals to supply drinking water. The streams that 
may be flowing through the town are fouled beyond degree, and 
are by no means fit for drinking purposes. For keeping the town 
clean every compound looks after its own frontage and surround- 
ings, in the market place every seller sweeps the space around her 

The system of sanitary arrangements is the most primitive 
imaginable ; near every large thoroughfare or a market place is 
a spot selected as a dust heap for the disposal of all sorts of refuse 
and sweepings of the neighbourhood, and at intervals, fire is set 
to the pile of rubbish. 

Here and there about the town are found leafy groves, usually 
clumps of fignut trees, the neighbourhood of which is unsavoury 
from the disposal of sewage. These sites are always infested by 
crowds of those keen-scented scavengers of nature, the hungry - 
looking vultures. Important chiefs have a large area of land 
enclosed within their compounds within which spots are selected 
for sanitary purposes. 

Every chief is responsible to the town council for the quarter of 
the town in which he resides. 

When a town has grown up to the town wall, the town council 
has to determine the amount of area to be taken in, and a new wall 
is built enclosing such area. The whole of the town participates 
in the work, even women and children also are engaged in fetching 
water to mix the swish and in providing refreshments for the men- 
folk ; the streets of the area simply follow the old line of the 
foot paths to the farms now enclosed within the town. 


It must strike the most casual observer who has travelled over 
the Yoruba country that those portions of the country which are 
supposed to be more backward in intelligence viz. the Ijesa, Ekiti, If e 
andother provinceshave betterstreets than themoreintelhgentones. 
Old men attribute this fact to the effect of the intertribal wars. E.g. 
in the case of Abeokuta, however well laid may have been the 
streets of the original farm villas, when the refugees began to flock 
in, attention could scarcely be paid to the ahgnment of the houses 
each one simply tried to find out the whereabouts of the members 
of his township, and thus they grouped themselves by their famihes 
in every available space around the chief of their town. 

The same may be said of all the towns of Yoruba proper which 
have suffered from the vicissitudes of war. In later years the 
.people seem to have lost altogether the art of laying out and naming 
streets as is the case in Ijesa and Ekiti towns. 

Roads. — ^Before the period of the revolutionary and intertribal 
wars, the bulk of the Yoruba people Hved in the towns of the plain, 
the towns in forest lands were small and unimportant, except the 
city of Owu, all below this being regarded as in the outskirts. 
Roads at that time were comparatively good. The country being 
flat was interspersed with hundreds of towns and villages, the 
inhabitants of which enjoyed the blessings of peace, and the 
fruits of their industry. Good roads were then made from one 
town to another, and were annually repaired at the time of the 
drummers' and Egugun festivals. They were wide enough for the 
easy progress of the company of dancers at these festivals and also 
for nuptial processions. 

But they are now neglected not only that they may impede the 
easy advance of invaders, but also to aid the concealment of the 
panic-stricken inhabitants, who at the first alarm disappear at 
once in the bushes surrounding their towns and villages. 

§ 2 Peculiar Yoruba Towns 

There are some important towns which form exceptions to some 
of the rules above given ; in their case the cause is due to intertribal 
and the revolutionary wars as we shall find in detail in the second 
part of this book. 

I. Abeokuta. — This large town is a conglomeration of villages, 
to the number of 153 with Ake as the chief. Each township (as they 
are called) has its own organization. Ake can scarcely be said 
to have any authority over them in their own local affairs, except 
such authority as is granted by the Principal Chiefs or " Ogbonis " 
who form the chief political organization. Hence we see that there 
is not one central market for the town as such, in the frontage of 


the chief ruler. There may be several Baloguns or Serikis, there 
are at least four kinglings, and several Ogboni houses, each section 
being jealous of its liberty and tenacious of its rights. Abeokuta 
in short was never organized as a single town : its pecuhar pohtical 
organization should be the subject of another chapter. 

Ibadan. — This town was originally a small Egba village around 
the site of the central market, but occupied by a portion of the 
army that destroyed the city of Owu and devastated the Egba 
villages. After the withdrawal of the Egbas into Abeokuta, the 
motley crowd forming the army settled at Ibadan. Ibadan has 
since been the mihtary encampment of Yoruba; the titles, order of 
precedence, etc. are chiefly military. For that reason there is 
not one family in which the title of Bale is hereditary and no official 
residence for the Bale. The Bale is always chosen from old 
retired war-chiefs, always by sufferance of the Balogun, who has 
equal authority and more real power. But when the Balogun has 
become old and has already won his laurels, he is expected to be the 
next Bale. A young Balogun with his future to make yields the 
mayoralty to an older chief, usually the Otun Bale. This is the 
only town where such arrangement exists. Ibadan has no hom.e 
forests. Attempts were made from time to time to form one, but 
always without success through the habit of firing the fields year 
by year at the dry season. They are in no fear of invasion. To be 
in Ibadan is to be in a place of safety. Hence the Ibadans style their 
town " Idi Ibon " i.e. the butt end of the gun ; for the same reason 
also the town walls are very indifferently kept. 

Ilorin. — Ilorin is in one respect different from the other Yoruba 
towns, in that the ruhng powers are aliens to the place. How it 
came about that Ilorin a pure Yoruba town, and one time the third 
city in the kingdom fell into the hands of ahens and to this day 
owns allegiance to other than its rightful sovereign, will be told in 
its place ; but to this day the principal market and the chief mosque 
of the town remain still in front of the house of the founder and 
rightful owner of Ilorin. 

These three towns, Abeokuta, Ibadan, and Ilorin are the largest 
towns in the Yoruba country, and probably in West Africa, and the 
three are the outcome of the revolutionary and intertribal wars. 

Chapter VII 


The Land laws of the Yoruba country are simple and effective, 
there being no need of any complicated or elaborate laws, as there 
is enough land for all the members of the various tribes. Whatever 
land is not effectively occupied is for the common benefit of all ; 
no one need own any land which he cannot utihze, except farm land 
left fallow for a short period. 

Theoretically and traditionally we have seen above that 
Yoruba land belongs to the AlAfin of Oyo as the supreme head of 
the race. " The land belongs to the King " has passed into a 
proverb. But it must be understood, that it is not meant that the 
land is the private property of the King, it is only his as representing 
the race, in other words, Yoruba land belongs to the Yoruba people 
and to no other, hence as the Yorubas are split into so many tribes, 
the head of each tribe, as representing the Alafin is the King for 
that tribe, and he holds the land or division of the. country for the 
benefit of the tribe, and even he has no power to alienate it perma- 
nently of his own accord, to an ahen. All lands, therefore, includ- 
ing forests and the plain are owned by some tribe or other, and no 
one belonging to another race or another tribe can make use of 
the land without the permission of the king and chiefs who hold / 
the land for their tribe. Members of the tribe have no difficulty 
at present in obtaining as much land as each requires for agricultural 
purposes in which every one is supposed to be engaged ; with the 
increase of population however, it is felt that some difficulties 
will arise in future, but the chiefs can cope with such cases. 

Lands are never sold, but may be granted to outsiders for life, and ^ 
to their heirs in perpetuity ; but where the land so granted had 
been under cultivation, it is understood in every case that the fruit- 
bearing trees, especially the palm trees, and kola-nut trees, etc., on 
the land are not included in the grant ; hence the common 
expression " The grantee is to look down not up," i.e. he is to 
confine his attention to plants he has cultivated and not on fruit- 
bearing trees he met on the spot. 

Land once given is never taken back except under special 
circumstances as treason to the state which renders the grantee 
an outlaw, and he is driven altogether from that state or tribe, 
and his land confiscated. Even when left unutilized, if there 



are marks of occupation on it, such as trees planted, or a wall 
built, etc., it cannot be taken back without the consent of the 

There is no subject in which the Yoruba man is more sensitive 
than in that of land. This normally quiet and submissive people 
can be roused into violent action of desperation if once they per- 
ceive that it is intended to deprive them of their land. 

We shall see in the course of this history that the non-ahenation 
of their land forms one of the main conditions of their admitting 
a European officer among them by the Ibadans at the beginning 
of the British Protectorate. 

The forests are under the direct guardianship of the hunters 
who form among themselves a fraternity recognized all over the 
land, subject of course to the town authonties. Any laws, rules, 
or regulations relating to forests that are to be made, must recognize 
the rights, privileges and services of the hunters, especially, as 
it is by them effect can be given to those laws. It is their duty to 
apprize the chiefs of any town, of any spies, expeditions, or raids 
that have that town or its farms for their objective. Crimes 
committed in the forests must be traced, and the authors tracked 
and unearthed by them. Any animal bearing traces or marks of 
their bullets or arrow-wounds must be restored to them. All 
information relating to forests must be given by the hunters to the 
chiefs of the town. 

The forests are free to every member of the tribe for procuring 
building materials, medicinal herbs, firewood, etc. 

Inlieritance. — When a man dies, his farms are inherited by his 
children, and so from father to son in perpetuity, and, Hke the house 
are not subject to sale. If his children are females, they will 
pass on to the male relatives, unless the daughters are capable of 
seeing the farm kept up for their own benefit. If minors, they may 
be worked by their male relatives until the boys are of age to take 
up the keep of the farms. 

No portion of such farms can be ahenated from the family without 
the unanimous consent of all the members thereof. 

These are the simple, fundamental and universal laws appUcable 
to all the tribes in general, but subject to modifications and 
development according to the local exigencies of each place. 
These exigencies may be due to the proximity of large populations, 
and consequently higher value of land, the nature of the land, 
whether forests with economic plants in them or pasture land, and 
the locality whether near the coast where foreign intercourse affects 
local habits, or far inland where the tribes remain in their sim- 
plicity. But in every case the ruling of the local chiefs, and their 


councillors must necessarily be the law for that tribe since the 
fundamental laws are not violated. 

None but citizens born or naturalized can own land permanently 
in this country. Land granted to foreigners for a specific purpose 
reverts to the owner or the state on the grantee leaving the country. 

These are the general laws, to be observed rather in the spirit 
than in the letter. 

Chapter VIII 


§ {a) Social Polity 

The ancient Yorubas were very simple in their manners, their 
tastes, and habits. Their houses all on the ground floor are built 
in compounds called Agbo He (lit. a flock of houses), that is to say 
in the form of a hollow square, horse shoe or a circle, enclosing 
a large central area, with one principal gateway the house being 
divided into compartments to hold several families, all more or less 
related or united by ties of kinship, or friendship. One piazza 
runs right round the whole, and is used for all ordinary purposes 
by day, and for the reception of visitors. The central area is 
used in common by all the inmates for general purposes ; usually 
horses, sheep and goats are found tethered in it. 

The compartment of the head of the house is usually opposite 

the main gateway or a httle to the right. It is larger, the roof 

1 loftier and the piazza more spacious than the rest. Here the master 

\ is expected to be found at all times (during visiting hours) by a 

1 doorway which leads to his harem at the back of the house. This 

J particular doorway is known as where the master " shows his face " 

\ (for the reception of visitors) ; it is an essential adjunct to the 

/ houses of chiefs or important personages, being used for no other 

Vvpurpose, for at all other times it is kept closed. A high wall often 

encloses a garden attached to the back of the building, the space 

enclosed is always in proportion to the size of the house, the rank, 

and the means of the owner. The houses of great men contain 

smaller compounds at the back attached to the main compound, 

these are called Kara or retiring quarters, each devoted to some 

purpose from a harem to stables for horses. 

The houses of chiefs are distinguished by a " street verandah " 
(as it is called) on either side the main gateway on the outside, 
varying in length according to the taste and capacity of the owner ; 
the roof of which is an extension or projection of that of the main 
building. It is used for lounging in the afternoons, at the cool 
of the day. A small market is almost always to be found at the 
frontage of such houses. The walls of the houses rising from 7 to 
8 feet in height are built of mud, the roof consequently is low, and 
is covered with a tall grass called Bere or with Sege or Ekan. In 
forest lands where these are not obtainable, a kind of broad leaf 



called Gb6d6gi is used instead. The houses are without any decor- 
ations ; the walls are plastered and polished with black and 
sometimes red earth by the women whose work it generally is. 
The houses of Kings and Princes are embellished with a sort of 
wash which is a decoction made from the skin of the locust 

Now and then attempts are found at artistic decorations, by 
figures traced on the wall ; but more commonly the front posts of 
the verandah consist of carved figures of various kinds, equestrians 
swordsmen, hawkers, etc. The floor is generally rubbed and 
polished once a week. 

The household furniture consists chiefly of cooking utensils, 
waterpots, and a mortar with pestles, all of which are deposited in 
the front and back piazzas of the house. 

The use of bedsteads, tables and chairs being unknown, they 
squat or lie on mats instead. In modern times those who can 
afford it keep a few chairs for the accommodation of visitors in 
European garb, who find it difficult or are unaccustomed to squat 
on the ground. It is not unusual to find skins of buffaloes, leopard,"") 
lion, or a large bullock hung up on the walls of the front piazza t 
which are taken down for distinguished visitors to sit on. ^ 

All their valuables are kept in pots or bags made of bamboo 
fibres, and placed in one corner of the sleeping room, so that in all 
cases of alarm, whether of fire, or night attack by robbers or slave- 
hunters, everything of value is soon taken away to a place of 
safety whenever possible. 

As all the houses are invariably built with mud ceilings which 
are themselves fire-proof, the losses in cases of fire are small, and 
of hardly any account, especially if the doors are kept rigidly 
closed. The property of the women consists chiefly of cloths, 
beads, with goats, sheep and poultry, these usually form a sub- 
stantial part of their " dowry." 

The head of the compound's principal wife is the mistress of 1 
the compound, as himself is the master, and all heads of the / 
several families within the compound are bound to pay their \_ 
respects to them the first thing every morning, the men prostrating 
on the ground, and the women sitting on the ground and reclining 
on their left elbow. 

[This is the ordinary mode of saluting a superior in this country; ") 
but when greater respect is to be shown, or pardon asked for some 
offence committed, the men while prostrating lay the right and 
left cheek alternately on the ground, and the women wrap their 
cloth lower down, loose their head tie, and recline alternately on 
the right as well as on the left elbow. 




r~ Before Kings and great rulers, for a show of homage, they run 
y to the porch of the house and back three times, throwing dust on 
/their head or roll on the ground]. 

They are chiefs in their respective domains, where they transact 
all business affecting the welfare or interest of the people in their 
respective households. All important cases are judged and 
decided in the master's piazza, and he is responsible to the town 
authorities for the conduct of the inmates of his compound ; hence 
the saying: — "Bale ni gloran awo " (the master of the house 
must be privy to all secrets). His word is law, and his authority 
indisputable within his compound, hence also another saying, 
" Ob^ ti Bale ile ki ij§ lyale ile ki ise e " (the sauce which the 
master of the house cannot eat or which is unpalatable to him, 
the mistress of the house must not cook), which when applied 
simply means that no one should go contrary to the wishes of the 
master of the house. 

To this high authority belongs a leg of whatever is slaughtered 
in the compound, from a chicken to a bullock ; whether killed for 
sacrifice, or for a festival, or for any other purpose of whatever kind. 

At the death of the master of the house, when the period of 
mourning is over, his successor be it his son, or his brother or 
cousin as the case may be, removes from his own compartment 
into that of the master. He is installed into his place by his feudal 
lord, or in case the deceased be a public man, by the Town Council, 
with a title that attaches him to one of the senior chiefs. But 
before the ceremony can take place, the roof over the late master's 
compartment (be it old or recent) is taken down and rebuilt afresh ; 
hence the term for a successor, Arole i.e. one who roofs the house. 

Personal Appearance. — In early times very little regard was 
paid to personal appearance. Boys and girls up to the age of 8 
years walked about in puris naturalihus ; from that period up to 
the age of puberty they were allowed the use of aprons, the cut and 
shape for either sex being different, the one from the other, that 
for boys being called hante, that for girls tdhi. The whole period 
was regarded as one of unencumbered freedom which ceases with 
the act of marriage. It was not an uncommon thing to find girls 
of the age of 15 when engaged in hard work whether at home or 
in the farm with absolutely nothing on,' and even their mothers 
on such occasions were but scantily clothed. This custom, how- 
ever, excepting among some tribes as Ijgsa and Efon has completely 
died out. The extreme poverty of the people in those early times 
was probably the chief cause of such disregard of personal attire. 
In modem times better attention is paid to their outward appear- 
ance, and although from the standpoint of an enlightened civiliz- 


ation there may be much to be desired still among the ordinary 
class of people, yet on the whole, especially amongst the well-to-do, 
the Yorubas dress very decently and becomingly as compared with 
former generations of the same people. 

Great regard, however, has always been paid to personal 
cleanliness, and for this the tribe is specially remarkable. The 
word Qbitn (filthy) as applied to a person carries with it such a 
feeling of disgust which beggars description. The men are always 
shaved and hence, when one appears unshaven, unwashed, and with 
filthy garments on, you may safely conclude that he is mourning, 
for these are the signs of it. Children and youths are either 
entirely shaved or a strip of hair running from the forehead to the 
occiput along the top of the head is left which is sometimes made 
into circular patches. As it is considered decent and cleanly 
for men to carry their heads bald so on the contrary " the hair is 
the glory of the woman," and much attention is paid to it. Wom.en 
have their hair done up in all sorts of ways dictated by their usual 
vanity; the unmarried ones are distinguished by their hair being 
plaited into small strips (from 8 to 14) from the right to the left 
ear, the smaller and more numerous the plaited strips the more 
admired. Married women on the other hand adopt other forms of 
plaiting ; usually they commence on both sides and finish up in 
the middle in a sort of net-work running from the forehead to the 
occiput ; ornamental forms are adopted by some, such as stuffing 
the hair in the middle of the head after being gathered from all 
sides ; and others again as the Ijebus finish up theirs in the shape 
of a pair of horns. 

Character. — As regards the social virtues, the ancient Oygs or 
Yorubas proper were very virtuous, loving and kind. Theft was 
rare as also fornication in spite of the scantiness or often times 
complete absence of clothing to which they were accustomed. 
Friendship was more sincere. Children were more dutiful to their 
parents, and inferiors respectful to their superiors in age or position. 
Liars were formerly punished by exclusion from society and from 
the clubs ; but as the whole people took dehght in ambiguous 
forms of speech which were not understood by those unaccustomed 
to their habits they were regarded and spoken of as prevaricators. 
Now, as formerly they are remarkably patient of injuries, and 
would never resist or retaliate except in extreme cases when 
provocation became insupportable. They are characteristically 
unassuming in their manners and submissive to their superiors. 
They are very shrewd in driving bargains, and hence foreigners 
speak of them as " African Jews " in reference to their commercial 


No nation is more remarkable for cautiousness and for putting 
themselves generally on the safe side. When powerless they would 
submit to oppression and wrong to any extent so long as they find 
resistance useless ; but when an opportunity offers for asserting 
their rights and overthrowing their oppressors, they are never 
slow to embrace it. The common proverb embodies this trait 
in their character : — " Bi owo eni ko te ekii ida a ki ibere iku ti o 
pa baba eni," i.e., if one has not grasped the handle of his sword 
he should not attempt to avenge the death of his father. 

Intercourse with other nations has caused various forms of 
vice to creep in among modern Yorubas or Oyos ; their natural 
timidity and submissive spirit have produced a degeneracy of 
manners so as to be considered essentially lacking in straightfor- 
wardness ; they can effect by diplomacy what they cannot 
accompHsh by force, in which proceeding the Oygs differ widely 
from the other tribes, some of whom are characterised by a proud 
and intractable spirit, but they are no less determined in carrying 
out their object although the means used to effect their purpose 
is essentially different. 

Yorubas as a whole are social, polite, and proverbially hospit- 
able. Licentiousness is abhorred. There are well attested cases 
where a member of a family would be condemned to slavery by a 
unanimous vote of all the relatives when he has brought disgrace 
on the family. Sometimes forcible emasculation is resorted to as 
a punishment (as in cases of incest) or total banishment from the 
town and neighbourhood to where the offender is not likely to 
be known. 

A peculiar custom was prevalent amongst the ancient Oyos. 
Young men were permitted to have intimate friends among the 
fair sex, and they were often the guests of each other. At the 
annual festivals the young man and his female friend would meet 
and take an active part in the ceremonies, and render pecuniary 
services or manual assistance to each other. At the time of harvest 
the female friend with the full consent of her parents would go 
for about a week or a fortnight to assist her male friend in bringing 
home his harvest while he himself may be engaged on his father's 
farm. Yet notwithstanding so much mutual intercourse strict 
chastity was the rule not the exception. The practice, however, 
has long been discontinued, owing to the degeneracy of the present 

Filial Duties. — It was the duty of every male child to serve 
his father although he might be married and have a family of his 
own unless he was exonerated from the obhgation by the father 
himself. As a general thing a small portion of farm work was 


allotted to him as his day's work after attending to which he may go 
and see after his own business. So while serving his father, every 
son had his own private farm also to manage ; and it was on his 
own portion of land that the female friend used to render assistance 
in time of harvest. 

All married women were also engaged in their husband's farm 
and the harmony that usually prevailed between them and the 
young people was very remarkable. 

Young men were not allowed to marry until they could give 
their father 10 heads of cowries, equal in those days to ;^io sterling. 
They were seldom married before the age of 30 and the young 
women, not before 20. Promiscuous rnarriages were not allowed, 
freeborn must be married to freeborn, slaves to slaves, and 
foreigners to foreigners. Except amongst the Igbonas consan- 
guineous affinity however remote was not allowed. 

Privileges of the Great. — Kings and nobles who kept harems 
were exempted from this rule of affinity ; they were at liberty to 
multiply wives from any tribe, and these wives might be of any 
condition of life. It was the pride of Kings to fill their harems 
with women of every description, such as foreign women, slaves, 
hostages, daughters of criminals given as the price of redemption, 
or seized in confiscations ; dwarfs, albinoes, hunch-backs, and any 
other in whose persons there should appear any signs of lustis 
naturcB. Such beings, being considered unnatural, were the King's 
peculiar property. Hence the saying " Oba ni ije ^rg" (it is Kings 
who are to feed on the uncommon). 




/idq/a //? je^ ^//?ree 

/ii?q/<7//7se/j gf/oi/r 

/ar/affb/7j ^fAe/\dq/a 

Ae/re or Gp/rpdg Ae/re orOo/??^ 




Ada/a O/otve/ 

Ae/re O/om/ 







) 'I \ 'I 




§ {b) Facial Marks. 

The facial marks are for the purpose of distinguishing the 

various Yoruba families. Of these, only those of the principal 

ones can be indicated. They are designated : — (a) Abaja, (b) 

Keke or Gombo, (c) Ture, (d) Pele, {e) Mande and (/) Jamgbadi. 

I. The Oyo marks are : — The Abaja, Keke or Gombo, 


{a) The Abaja are sets of three or four parallel and horizontal 

lines on each cheek ; they may be single or double, each line 

being from half-an-inch to one inch long. 

Lines in sets of three : — 

~ ~ or ~ 

The double sets are those of the Royal Family' of Oyo the 
single that of the older line of Basoruns. 
Lines in sets of four : — 

^11 or = 

These marks distinguish some noble families of Oyo. 
Variations of these marks are made by adding three perpendi- 
cular lines to them as a family distinction thus : — 

iU _ or LU 

The latter of these is common amongst the Ibolos and Epos. 
{b) The Kek^ or Gombo consists of four or five perpendicular 
and horizontal lines placed angularly on each cheek ; they 
occupy the whole space between the auricle and the cheek bone ; 
three small perpendiculars are also placed on the horizontal 
lines on both cheeks thus : — 

1 Besides the above, broad ribbon marks termed Eyo drawn 
along the whole length of the arms and legs are distinctive of the 
Royal Family of Oyo. For whereas homeborn slaves and others 
closely related to Royalty may have the facial marks distinctive 
of the house to which they belong, the Eyo marks are reserved 
strictly for those actually of Royal blood. 



A variation of this is sometimes made by adding on the left 
cheek the Ibamu i.e. a line running aslant from the bridge of the 
nose to the horizontal lines. This also is for the purpose of distin- 
guishing a family. 


When the lines are rather bold, the mark is termed Keke, 
when fine and faint it is termed Gombo. The K^ke or Ggmbg 
is a common mark of all Qyos and of the Egbado tribe. 

(c) The Ture consists of four perpendicular lines somewhat like 
the Gombo, but longer, with the three small perpendiculars 
but without the horizontals. 

,.,l ! 

{d) The Pele are three short perpendicular lines over the cheek 
bones, each about an inch long. They are not distinctive 
of any particular family, but are used generally by some men 
who disapprove of tribal distinctions, usually Moslems, but are 
loth to remain plain-faced, e.g. 

{e) (/) The Mande and Jamgbadi are no longer in use ; the 
latter is said to be distinctive of aliens naturalized amongst 

These are the principal facial marks. The other principal 
Yoruba families are distinguished by a slight variation of these 
marks : — 

II. Egba marks: — The Abaja dr6 i.e. the upright Abaja 
is distinctive of the Egbas. They consist of three perpendicular 
lines each about 3 inches long on each cheek. The younger 
generations, however, have their lines rather faint or of shorter 
lengths undistinguishable from the Pele. 

III. The Egbado marks are the same as the Oyo marks 
generally as this family remained in close connection with Oyo 
and in their allegiance to the Alafiin long after the break-up of the 
kingdom, and the establishment of tribal independence. 



IV. Owu marks. These are of two kinds, both being 
variations of Oyo marks. They are: — (a) Ahaja Olowu and 

{b) Keke Olowu. 

(a) The Abaja Olowu are three horizontal lines surmounted 

by three perpendiculars each about one and a-half inches long. 

(b) The Keke Olowu is like the Keke or Gombo with the lines 
discrete or interrupted. 

V. Ijgbu marks are also of two kinds (a) the first is much like 
the A baja Olowu (the tribe from which they are partly descended) 
but with the horizontals curved. 

(b) The other is the Abaja Oro of the Egbas. The former is 
more distinctive of Ij§bus. 

VI. If§ marks are three horizontal lines like those of the 
original Basgrun's marks, each being shorter, about half-inch 
long. Otherwise Ifes are usually plain faced. 

VII. The Ondos and Idokos have only one bold line or 
rather a gash about one and a half inches to two inches long over 
each malar bone. 

VIlI. The Ijesas as a rule have no distinctive marks ; they 
are mostly plain-faced ; some families, however, are dis- 
tinguished by having on each cheek 5 or 6 horizontal lines. 
They are closely drawn, and much longer than any Oyo mark, 

Amongst the Efons an Ekiti family, the lines are so many 


and so closely drawn that the whole together form a dark patch 
on each cheek, e.g. 

IX. The Yagbas are the most north-easterly tribes of 
Yoruba ; they are distinguished by three long lines on each 
cheek, far apart behind, but converging to a point at the angle 
of the mouth, e.g. 

X. The Igbominas are by some classed with Qyos, and by 
others with Ekitis. It will, perhaps, be more correct to say they 
are Oyos with Ekiti sympathies. They occupy a midway 
position between the two ; and so their facial marks are parallel 
like those of Qyos, but long and far apart like those of Yagbas, 
yet not convergent in front e.g. 

On the whole, speaking generally, the finer and more closely 
drawn lines, are more elegant than the same drawn bold, and 
too far apart. 

We may note how each of the principal marks is indicated 
by a different verb signifying "to mark": — 
To be marked with the Pele is O kQ Pele 

„ „ „ Abaja ,, O hu Abaja 

Keke ,, O ja Kekg 

,, ,, ,, Gombo ,, O iva Gombo 

§(c) Diet 

The diet of the common people is plain but substantial. The 
morning meal is a kind of gruel made from corn flour (maize or 
guinea corn) and taken between 7 and 8 a.m. with Akara an oily 
cake made of beans, ground and fried. There are no fixed hours 
for meals. After midday, dinner is served, each family consulting 
its own convenience as to the precise time of eating. Supper is 
taken in the evening generally between 7 and 9 p.m. 

In ancient times pounded yam is served out in a large bowl 
or earthenware vessel, and both the father and his children and 
grandchildren sit around it to partake of the food. Each one dips 
his hand into the dish and takes a morsel in strict order of seniority. 



the youngest present acts the part of a servant and waits on his 
seniors ; and whether the food be sufficient or not care was usually 
taken to leave some portion for him. 

The staple articles of diet are yam and yam flour, corn and 
corn flour, beans of various kinds, cassava, sweet potatoes, etc. 
Only the well-to-do can afford to indulge in flesh diet daily, the 
poorer people are mostly vegetarians, except when animals are 
slaughtered for sacrifice they seldom partake of meat ; game, 
however, is plentiful. Dwellers on the coast have a plentiful 
supply of fish. 

Of fruits the principal are : — The shea fruit in the plain, the 
Oro {Irvinga Barter i Hook) in forest lands. The Ori or black 
plum {verbenacea cuneata), locust, bananas, plantains, pawpaws, 
oranges, lime (citron), pine-apples, the well-known kola nut, and 
the bitter kola {garcinia kola-Heckel) , ground nuts {Arachis hypogea) , 
etc. Their drink consists of palm wine, bamboo wine, and beer 
made from the guinea corn or from maize. 

§ {d) Dress 

The Yorubas clothe themselves in loose flowing robes like the 
people of the East, whence indeed they trace their origin. The 
men wear gowns, vests, and a very free and ample kind of trousers 
called S6k6t6. In lieu of the gown sometimes a sheet of cloth 
three yards by two is thrown around the body for a covering, 
passing under the right arm-pit, and overlapping over the left 

In ancient times the gowns were made very plain and were 
, of purely native manufacture. They were without embroidery 
on the breast and around the neck as at present ; only kings and 
chiefs wore gowns made of superior stuffs richly embroidered. 
The covering for the common people is called Eleg6d^. The 
weavers have a standard of breadths for all home-made cloths. 
Men's coverings are made of 14 breadths, and women's of 10, 
of about 5 inches each. Cloths of wide breadths— say about a 
yard — were first imported from Or6 or Ila in the Igbomina 
province, and were known as Akoko cloths being chiefly the pro- 
duction of Akoko women ; hence the practice spread all over the 
country for women to manufacture broad width cloths, and men 
narrow ones. Formerly only men were weavers and tailors, but 
from intercourse with other nations the women now engage in the 
same craft. 

The vest spoken of above is known as kukumg over which the 
gown or loose cloth is thrown. It is sleeveless and without a collar, 
and open in front ; it may be made of any kind of native stuff. 



but that which is made of Alari (crimson dye) or of SSmayan 
(rough silk) is the most respectable, as it is at the same time most 

Another kind of vest is termed Ewii ; this is much like the former, 
but with sleeves ; it is more commonly used in modern times ; 
in full dress it is often worn under the gown, and is always made of 
white stuff. 

There is another form which seems to be of foreign importation 
used only by big men ; it is- full of pleats below reaching to the 
calves, but the sleeves are very ample and long, about 12 inches 
longer than the arms, very wide at the end. It is called Dandogo, 
and is worn in lieu of the gown. 

Togo is a sleeveless dress like kukumo but smaller and simpler ; 
it is the soldier's dress and is often worn with a turban wrapped 
round for a belt. 

There are three sorts of gowns, the Suliya, Agbada and Girike. 
The Suliya is the smallest, plainest and lightest ; always made 
of white material, it reaches much below the knee, open at the 
sides, with the arm stretched the sleeve would reach as far as the 
wrist, but long and pointed below. The Agbada is a larger form, 
always made of dyed or coloured stuff. It reaches as far as the 
ankles, much embroidered at the neck and breast, open at the 
sides, and quite covers the arms. The Girike is the largest and 
heaviest, it is like the Agbada but more ample ; it is much 
embroidered, reaching also as far as the ankles, and extends 
beyond the arms. 

Trousers (called Sokoto) are made of different shapes and 
lengths, but all are kept round the waist by a strong cord. They 
are worn below the vests. They consist of the following : — 

(a) Ladugbo is the commonest, worn by young and working 
men, it is quite free, but somewhat tight at the knee where it 
terminates. It is now out of fashion. 

(b) Aibopo, also common, worn by all classes. It is free but 
tightened towards the knee where it terminates. 

(c) The Alongo. This is tight throughout, and is not unlike a 
bishop's gaiters. It reaches below the knee, and is used chiefly 
by sportsmen. 

(d) The Kdfo is a tight-legged dress like the Alongo, but reaches 
as far down as the ankles. It is worn by warriors and ruffians 

(e) The Ketnbe. This is made like the Aibopo but richly 
embroidered about the legs with threads of crimson dye. This 
is the kind usually worn by nobles and gentlemen. 

(/) The Efa or Abenugbangba. The name (wide-mouthed) well 


describes the nature of the trousers. It is a kind that is very 
free, longer than the Aibopo, is somewhat shaped like European 
trousers, but stops short a little below the knee. 

(g) The Wondo is made entirely like the European trousers. 
Though once fashionable, yet is now entirely out of use. 

{h) The last is the Agadansi. This is adopted from the Nupes, 
by whom it is commonly used. It extends from the waist to 
the ankles ; it is very free throughout save at the ankles where 
it terminates and is heavily embroidered there. It is often made 
of two or three j^ards wide (sometimes more) so that when the feet 
are thrust in at either end, and the cord drawn above, it gathers 
into a large volume between the legs. 

The men's head-gear is usually a cap (Filk) of which there are 
two kinds ; the ordinary filk which is about lo inches long, rather 
close fitting, and is bent upon itself on the top. The turban is 
generally wound round it by Moslems and full-dressed gentlemen. 
The other kind is used generally by young folks, and is called 
Fild Ab'eti i.e. the ear-covering cap. It is shaped like the sector 
of a circle, the pointed ends being used — as its name denotes — for 
covering the ears in cold weather. But when used otherwise the 
pointed ends are tmned fore and aft, the point on the forehead 
being tilted up in a sporting manner to show the under -surface 
prettily done up wth cloths of bright colouring : it is then termed 

Hats made of straw, and ornamented with coloured leather are 
worn solely for protection from the sun : the crowns are large 
enough to accommodate the turbaned head. 

The women's dress is much simpler, two or three wrappers 
and a head dress or circlet complete their toilet. Unmarried 
women generally use two wrappers, the under wrapper being fixed 
above the breasts. This is made of fine cloth and is heavier. 
The upper is fixed about the middle of the body ; and is made of 
lighter cloth. To these married women add a third, used as a 
shawl, or covering for the head and back. Underneath all these, 
and immediately next the body is worn from the age of puberty 
a short apron or petticoat reaching the knees, and tied round the 
waist with a strong cord or band. This is called T6bi. 

Female headgear consists of a band, of about 6 to lo inches 
wide and 5 feet long (more or less). This is wound twice round 
the head and tucked on one side. It may be of plain cloth 
or costly, as she can afford. Well-to-do ladies use velvet 

Hats are used only as sunshades ; the crown is small for the head 
but the rim is as wide as an open umbrella. 


Camwood to the feet and stibium to the eyelids complete the 
female toilet. 

§ {e) Marriage 

In ancient times the Yorubas were mostly monogamic ; not 
from any enlightened views on the subject however, but rather 
from necessity ; for, although polygamy was not actually forbidden, 
yet only rich folk could avail themselves of indulgence in that 
condition of life. 

Besides, in a community mainly pastoral and agricultural, 
where all were peaceful, and no one engaged in any occupation 
perilous to the lives of its male population e.g. warfare, sea- 
faring, deep mining, etc., where wants were few, and those easily 
satisfied, the young men married as soon as they were of an age to 
support a family, and therefore a superfluous female population 
was hardly ever known. 

The marriage laws and customs have undergone changes brought 
about by intercourse with other peoples, but the chief features in 
them are still preserved. 

Where all things are equal and normal, there are three stages 
to be observed, viz. i. An early intimation. 2, A Formal 
Betrothal. 3, The Marriage. 

1. An early intimation. — It is generally the duty of the female 
members of the family to look out for a wife for their male relative ; 
girls are generally marked out from childhood as intended for a 
particular young man, with or without her knowledge ; this is the 
first stage in the process. Mutual relations at this time are of 
an informal nature ; much depends upon subsequent events, 
especially on the girl's liking for the man when she is of age, and 
the consent of the parents. There are other important factors 
in the matter, but for the former, ways and means are found for 
the girl to make the acquaintance of the future husband. This 
period is also employed in making a close acquaintance with each 
other's family, for before a formal betrothal is made the relatives 
on both sides will first satisfy themselves that the family of the 
other side is free from the taint of any hereditary disease such as 
insanity, epilepsy, leprosy, etc. and also whether they be insolvent 
debtors. As mutual understanding becomes established, presents 
are usually given at the New Year, and at other annual festivals. 
This period will last until the girl is of marriageable age. 

2. The Betrothal, — This is called the " Isihun " or formed consent. 
No girl will marry without the consent of her parents ; and it is 
rare for a girl to refuse the choice of her parents. The family oracles 
are invariably consulted before the final decision is arrived at. 


The ceremony of betrothal is a very important one ; it is 
generally performed in the night, when all the most important 
members of the family on both sides will be at leisure to be present, 
as well as their intimate friends. The young man is to present 
40 large kola nuts, some money, and several pots of beer for the 
entertainment of those present. The kola-nuts have to be split, 
and all present as well as important absentees must have a share 
of them, indicating thereby that they are witnesses of the betrothal. 
From this day, the girl is not to meet her fiance or any member of 
his family without veiling or hiding her face. 

Then follows what is known as the AnS or " dowry." The 
bridegroom-elect has to present to the parents of the intended 
bride, choice kola-nuts, some alligator pepper, and bitter kolas.* 
Also a fine wrapper of good quality, a large covering cloth, 
a head tie, and some money according to his ability. . Well-to-do 
families rarely require more than 10 heads of cowries in these 
days, in earlier times one head was considered ample — only as 
a token. 

Whatever variations may be in these presents, the kola-nuts of 
both kinds and the alhgator pepper are invariable and essential. 
If the girl happens to be doing debtors' service at the time, the 
young man will pay the debt and release her, before the marriage 
can take place. 

This event (the betrothal) is also an occasion of rejoicing, 
feasting, and offering of sacrifices. The parties themselves are 
to carry special propitiatory sacrifices offered to the evil one. 
This is termed " Ebg lyawo " i.e. A bride's sacrifice. 

3. Marriage. (Igbeyawo). — Marriages may be solemnized at 
any time of the year, except during the fasts, but the most usual 
time is after the season of harvest, and following the Egugun 

The bride is conducted to her new home always in the night, 
attired in her best with a thin white cloth for a veil, and attended 
by her companions all well clothed, with drums, and singing and 
dancing. The bridal party is met at the entrance gate of the 
bridegroom's compound by a female band of the house specially 
selected for the purpose, and by them the ceremony of washing 
the bride's feet is performed, and then the bride is literally lifted 
and borne into the house. Hence the term for marriage " Gbe 
lyawo " i.e. lifting or carrjdng the bride. She is then conducted 
into the bathroom where she is washed, rubbed down, perfumed, 

' This is really not dowry but symbols of future relationship 
between both families. 


and dressed up afresh, and then conducted into the apartment of 
the head lady of the house. She now becomes the inmate of that 
house for life. 

The bride is usually brought with her idols, and furnished from 
her home with every thing that appertains to the female depart- 
ment of house-keeping, including cooking utensils, brooms, and 
other articles for house use. 

If she gives satisfaction to her husband, and friends, presents 
are sent on the next day to her parents, she herself is covered 
with trinkets (consisting chiefly of corals and other costly beads, 
gold necklaces where they are obtainable, etc.) and the festivities 
continue for at least three days. 

A bride who is found unchaste is rather hardly used and some 
times severely punished to the extent of having her tied^ and 
severely flogged, thus compelling her to name her violator so as 
to have him severely fined. No ornaments are allowed her 
and she may be ordered to perform errands out of doors unveiled, 
the next day, or may be sent out with a pitcher for water ! Other- 
wise, a bride is never seen out of doors for 12 months at least 
after her marriage, except closely veiled, and with attendants. 

In the case of Moslems, liturgical forms of ceremonies are per- 
formed by the priest in the house or in the mosque. This is 
termed Isoyigi. Such women alone in former times had the 
privilege of covering their head with a light shawl when out 
of doors ; but the practice has now been extended to all married 

Widowhood and Remarriage. — Three months is the period of 
mourning in Yoruba, during which time widows remain closely 
indoors ; they may spin, dye, or do any home work, but must do 
nothing that will take them out of doors. Among other signs of 
widowhood is an entire absence of personal attention, they neither 
bathe nor do up their hair, nor change the cloth they had on at 
the time of the husband's death. 

This period over, they are open to offer of marriage from mem.bers 
of the deceased husband's family. Where there are several 
women, the heir (usually the eldest son or younger brother) who 
succeeds to the headship of the house, usually inherits the majority 
of the women, except of course his own mother. The custom 
is for each man to send his chewing stick (tooth brush) round to 
the woman of his choice, she is expected modestly to decline 

' This gave rise to the proverb " Tani de o ti o nka oko " i.e. 
who has tied you that you begin to name a violator ? The equiva- 
lent of Qui s'excuse s'accuse. 


it once or twice ; but if she refused it the third time, the refusal 
is taken as final. 

The following peculiarities mark Yoruba wedded life : — 

1. Women are never really married twice ; they may be inherited 
as widows, or taken for a wife outside the late husband's family, 
but the marriage ceremony is never gone over again under any 

2. Once married they are attached for ever to the house and 
family of their deceased husbands ; hence it is more usual for widows 
to choose another husband from the same family. 

3. No woman is without a husband, except in extreme old age, 
but every woman must in any case have a male protector who is 
responsible for her. 

4. Divorce is very rare ; so rare as to be practically considered 
X as non-existing. It is by no means easily obtained especially 

when there are children of the union. 

The causes that may lead to a divorce are : — Adultery with the 
husband's blood relation, kleptomania, repeated insolvency, 
especially such as may bring trouble to the house. A woman 
may apply for a divorce for extreme cruelty, which can be testified 
to, and ill-usage. 

But these causes notwithstanding a divorce is never granted by 
the rulers of the town until all possible means of reclamation have 
been exhausted. 

5. A woman divorced from her husband can never be married, 
or taken up legally by another man ; hence the saying A ki isu 
opo alkye (no one can inherit the relict oi a living man). 

Under purely Native Government the above rules still hold 

Other Recognized Forms of Marriage 

There are cases in which all the above forms and ceremonies are 
not gone through, and yet the woman is regarded as the lawful 
wife of the man of her choice. Mutual consent is the only thing 
indispensable. Of such cases, some may be girls who when of 
age, will not accept the man chosen for them from childhood, 
except one of their own choice. Some may be widows who failed 
to be mated at the house of her late husband. Some may be 
slaves who have redeemed themselves, or a captive of war, or 
one bought to be made a wife of. In all such cases, the woman's 
free consent, and the recognition of her by the members of the 
man's family, are all that is required for her to be regarded as the 
man's lawful wife. 

There is a third form of marriage which is more common among 


Moslems of modern times. In such cases, it is not usual to 
mark out a husband for the girls from childhood ; but when 
they are of age, the father, seeing a young man he delights in, or 
an elderly man with whom he desires to form a connection, if he 
expresses himself willing to accept the gift, the father after a very 
short notice will order his daughter to be washed and dressed 
up and taken over to the man in the evening, as a " Sarahk" 
i.e. a free gift of God ! The|;irl may not even know the man until 
she is taken to him ! 

In such cases a girl that is wild and unruly who is likely to 
bring disgrace on the family receives but a few hours' notice ; 
but a dutiful and obedient daughter will always have her 
feelings consulted, and her wishes granted as to her choice of the 
man and the time of the marriage. Festivities are performed in 
these cases also. 

These are the three forms of wedlock recognized by the Yorubas 
the first being far more binding than the latter two. 

Moslems hold that the Koranic law limits them to four wives, 
and, therefore, the ceremony of Isoyigi is never performed for the 
same man above that number. 

Other wives taken without the ceremony of Isoyigi are known 
as Wahari (a Hausa word) ; they are legal in every way and their 
children quite as legitimate, but both mother and children are 
regarded as somewhat inferior to those others. Amongst pagans 
the " customs " detailed above take the place of Isoyigi with the 
status it confers upon both the mother and the children. 

Only the products of an illicit intercourse are regarded as 

§ (/) Trades and Professions 

The principal occupations of men are: — Agriculture, commerce, 
weaving, iron-smelting, smithing, tanning and leather working, 
carving on wood and on calabashes, music, medicine, barbing, 
and other minor employments. 

Agriculture. — This is the most general occupation of the bulk 
of the people. It is carried on with simple and primitive instru- 
ments, viz. a hoe and a cutlass, and nothing more, both of home 
manufacture. Ploughing is unknown, and it is very doubtful 
indeed whether a plough would be of much service to them 
under present conditions ; experiments with that instrument 
by those who understand the use of it have not proved successful. 

The principal articles of food and of commerce grown are : — 
Corn (guinea corn in the north and maize in the south), beans of 
several varieties, ground nuts [arachis hyPogea), yams of various 


species, sweet potatoes, koko (colocasiaantiquorum), pepper, piper, 
calabashes and other kinds of gourds, coffee, cocoa, kola nuts, 
vegetables of all sorts for home consumption, cotton for weaving, 

When a plot has been worked with rotation of crops for a 
few years, it is left to lie fallow for some years whilst contiguous 
plots are put under cultivation, and so on alternately ; manuring 
is unknown. The soil is remarkably fertile under present system. 

Women and children assist in reaping and in bringing harvest 
home. No beasts of burden are employed in agricultural operations. 

All farmers and men of any importance have generally smaller 
farms nearer home " Oko Utile " and a more distant one generally 
in the forest " Oko Egdn." When engaged in the nearer one, 
they work from 6 or 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with intervals for meals, and 
then return home ; but at the distant farm, they invariably 
remain there for weeks and months before returning home. 
Regular farmers do so only at -the annual festivals. In these 
farms, not only are fruits of the earth cultivated but also poultry 
and smaller cattle are reared for the market. Fairs are held period- 
ically in some central farm markets where these products are dis- 
posed of to market women from surrounding towns and villages. 

Although the soil is well adapted for raising fruits, yet fruit 
trees are rarely cultivated for the supply of markets. 

Commerce. — Commerce comes next in the order of im.portance. 
Yorubas are keen traders, they are to be found in every part of 
neighbouring countries for that purpose. A large trade is carried 
on by barter. Cowry shells, the medium of exchange, being too 
clumsy for large transactions, are used only for small exchanges 
locally ; the very small species are used by travellers. Costly 
beads are used by many on distant journeys for trade, they are 
valued as precious stones. Thus the products of the north are 
given in exchange for those of the south, and those of Yoruba 
land for those of neighbouring states always by barter. Both 
sexes are engaged in trade but each in his own line. 

Currency. — Metallic currency was unknown previously to the 
arrival of European traders, and even as lately as 1897 in places 
far off from the coast coins were regarded more or less as a curiosity. 
Silver was better appreciated than gold or copper, because it can 
be converted to ornaments. Silversmiths abound in the country 
whilst there were no goldsmiths. Shells then stood for money 
and are thus calculated : — 

40 cowries = i string 
50 strings = i head 
10 heads = i bag 


The value of a cowry was never fixed. Countries nearer the 
coast can obtain them with greater faciUty than those inland, 
and therefore they are of higher value in the interior ; but since 
the British occupation of Lagos the principal port of the Yoruba 
country, and English coins began to circulate in the country, 
the rate of exchange became practically fixed at 6d. for a " head " 
(the usual standard of calculation) i.e. 2,000 cowries ; hence 3d. 
= 1,000 cowries. But coppers being considered inferior in value, one 
penny is taken at 300 cowries each ; 3d. in coppers then would be 
900 cowries. Cowries are an absolute necessity at the present 
stage of the country, and should be used pari passu with coins 
for purchases below one penny. Fruits, herbs, and small articles 
of food may be purchased for a few cowries, beggars collect them 
by two's and three's from passers by, and thereby earn enough 
to keep life going ; to what extent they are rcire, to that extent 
the hardships of life are felt in the land. . 

The custom of stringing cowries was for the facility of counting 
large sums ; they were usually strung by 200 in 5 strings of 40 
each, three of 66 or two of 100 each and with a discount of one per 

Esusu is a universal custom for the clubbing together of a number 
of persons for monetary aid. A fixed sum agreed upon is given 
by each at a fixed time (usually every week) and place, under a 
president ; the total amount is paid over to each member in rotation. 
This enables a poor man to do something worth while where a 
lump sum is required. There are laws regulating this system. 

Weaving. — This also is carried on by both sexes but in different 
styles of manufacture. Men weave cloths of narrow breadths 
about 5^ inches wide called Alawe. The loom is operated upon 
N^dth both hands and feet ; the threads of the warps are so arranged 
that they open and close by a mechanical contrivance worked 
by both feet moving alternately as the pedals of an harmonium, 
whilst the shuttle about 8 by 2 inches carrying the woof is 
tossed and caught by the right and left hand alternately through 
the opening, the disengaged hand being rapidly used in ramming 
in the thread. The cloth is woven in one long strip and then cut 
to the required lengths and tacked together. 

Tailoring is done mostly by men only as it is only men's dress 
which requires a tailor. It includes embroidery made in the neck 
and breast of men's gowns. Women being wrapped in plain 
cloths hardly require tailoring. The stitches are made the 
contrary way to that of European tailors, the needle being pushed 
away from the seamster, and not toward himself. 

Iron Smelting was carried on more largely in earlier than in 


modern times. Certain districts are rich in iron ores, its iron 
production gave its name to the city of Ilorin, from Ilo irin, iron 
grinding, also to El eta a district of Ibadan " Eta " being the term 
for iron ore. Certain districts in the Ekiti province are also famous 
for their iron ores from which good steel was made, such as Oke 
Mesi. Charcoal from hard wood, and the shells of palm nuts are 
the materials generally used for generating the great heat required 
for the furnace (called Ileru) which is kept going all the year round. 
Iron rods and bars of European commerce being cheaper are fast 
displacing home-made products, and here and there all over the 
country the furnaces are being closed, and soon will doubts begin 
to be expressed as to whether Yorubas ever knew the art of smelting 
iron from the ores ! 

Other products of the mines e.g. gold, silver, tin, etc., are not 
known among the Yorubas. 

Smithery is carried on largely. Before the period of intercourse 
with Europeans, all articles made of iron and steel, from weapons 
of war to pins and needles were of home manufacture ; but the 
cheaper and more finished articles of European make, especially 
cutlery though less durable are fast displacing home-made wares. 

There are also brass and copper smiths who make ornaments 
from these materials ; for this purpose brass and copper bars are 
imported from foreign parts. 

Workers in leather were formerly their own tanners, each one 
learns to prepare for himself, whatever leather he wants to use ; 
black, white, green, yellow, and brown are the prevailing colours 
given to leather. They are now largely imported from Hausa- 
land, principally from Kano. 

Every worker is expected to know, and to be able to execute 
the various crafts performed with leather, e.g. saddlery, sheaths 
to swords and knives, leather ornaments on hats, waistbands for 
children, leather cushions, bolsters, boots and shoes, sandals, etc. 

It may be remarked that shoes and boots are used only by riders 
on horseback, and therefore they are always made with spurs 
immovably fixed upon them. 

Music is a favourite pastime and gives occupation to many, 
both men and boys. 

Musicians also have first to learn how to manufacture the 
instruments they have to perform upon, hence each one can easily 
repair a damaged instrument. 

Yoruba music has yet to be studied and reduced to a system 
by a competent musician ; how essential this is can easily be 
recognized when we consider how much time and trouble is spent 
in acquiring the art, and how much the practice of it enters into 


the varied life and conversation of the people. Having learnt 
how to make their instruments, they then begin to learn how to 
speak with them, an operation to which the Yoruba language 
readily lends itself, as it consists chiefly in modulation of the 
voice ; this the instruments try to imitate. The praises and 
attributes of great men and distinguished names are got up, and 
the various measures in dances are learnt. There is no sound 
more common in Yoruba towns than what Europeans term 
" tomtoms." Musicians are in requisition at weddings, funerals, 
in processions of all kinds religious and otherwise ; they are constant 
attendants on all great men, and many of them parade the streets 
asking alms on their drums. 

Musical Instruments used by the Yorubas are of two classes 
only, viz. wind and percussion. 

{a) The Ivory trumpet and the Kakaki introduced from the 
Hausa and Nupe are used for the AlAfin alone. The Fami fami, 
Okinkin, Igba, Tiyako fife and the Oge. These are the principal 
wind instruments. 

{h) The Koso is the AlAfin 's drum, and the Ogidigbo is used 
only on the occasion of the AlAfin and theBasorun dancing on the 
annual festivals. 

The Calabash drum — ornamented with strings of cowries — 
is called Sek^r^. The Yangede, Dundun, Bata, Aye, Sami, 
Siki and the Apinti are all ancient drums. The Aro (cymbal) 
the Bembe, introduced from Hausa, and the Gangan the noisiest 
but most popular are of recent invention. These are the percussion 

Stringed instruments are rarely used, except by Hausa mendi- 

Medicine. — There are certain persons, doctors by profession 
(general practitioners) to whom people resort on an emergency. 
They are called Adahunse. There are no institutions like hospitals, 
but some of these doctors do keep on their premises a number of 
invalids suffering from chronic or constitutional diseases, e.g., 
leprosy, insanity, chronic ulcers, etc. Many of these patients 
being unable to pay the doctor's fees, style themselves " Gba 
mi o ra mi " i.e., help me and appropriate me. Such persons 
on being cured become the property (or perpetual house servant) 
of the doctor. 

Formerly there were certain clans known as medicine people, 
and were licensed as such by the King. For instance, the 
inhabitants of the towns of Ogur6, Ogidi, Abe, Agberi, Apat^, 
Arohungbe. They were remarkable for their skill in using secret 
poisons, and crimes committed by them generally went unpunished, 


they being under the special protection of the King. They are 
expected to be at the King's service when required, but it meant 
death to any of them if the poison given to the King for his use 
upon his enemies did not take fatal effect. 

There was also a particular family of Efon descent living at 
one time at Oyo said to have belonged to the Ondasa tribe. Their 
great ancestor was said to have been invited to the capital bj' 
one of the early Kings of Oyo for medical advice when all his 
wives were barren. His prescriptions were successful, and so he 
was detained at Oyo and rewarded with a high rank and position 
in the palace amongst the household officers. His descendants 
are now distinguished from the citizens of Oyo by the totem OgQ 
(a club) being affixed to their names. 

The art of medicine is kept a profound secret by those who 
profess it ; an increase of knowledge can only be gained by an 
interchange of thoughts between brother professionals ; many 
die without imparting their secrets to others, and thus much 
valuable knowledge is entirely lost. But some do impart their 
secret to those of their children male or fern. ale who show special 
aptitude for such knowledge and whom they particularly l6ve. 

On the whole we can unhesitatingly assert that those men 
who are specialists in one or two particular branches but who do 
not make the practice of medicine a profession can be more con- 
fidently relied upon. 

Carpentry is in a very backward condition. Of joinery they 
have no idea whatever. Carpenters are called Gbenagbena. 
They are the crudest and most primitive of handicraftsmen ; their 
services are not much in requisition. 

Carving in wood is executed in a rather primitive way but such 
natural genius is displayed by some men, that it is a matter of 
surprise that such artistic achievem.ents can be displayed by an 
illiterate person, and with tools so simple and primitive. 

The Yorubas of the Egbado district are said to be the best artists 
in the country. They certainly have in their forest&^^vood most 
suitable for carving purposes. / 

Calabash dressers are always found in a row in market places 
plying their trade ; all sorts of geometrical figures are traced or 
cut in calabashes ; some designs are exquisitely correct and 
beautiful. Names, mottoes, and phrases are burnt into calabashes 
by educated artists, figures only by the uneducated. These 
designs are recently being imitated by Europeans under the term 
of Poker Work. 

Seamanship. — There are very few large rivers in Yoruba land 
and nearly all of them fordable during the dry season, consequently 


only in coast towns and on the Niger are canoemen found who 
make any pretence to seamanship. 

When the inland rivers are swollen by rains, large bowls and 
very large calabashes are used in ferrying passengers across. The 
passengers sit on them with their luggage, with the ferryman in the 
water, pushing the freight across. 

All canoes are dug out from large trees. Our canoemen cannot 
really be called experts, as they rarely sail out of sight of land, 
and canoes can ill endure any storm or tempest ; nevertheless, 
when war canoes are rigged up and manned, they are handled with 
no little skill in their fights, sham or real. In the title of Aromire 
(i.e. one in friendly terms with water) we have preserved a chieftain 
who ranked as an admiral in the olden days of sea fights. 

Fisheries. — Deep sea fishing is but little practised, the rivers 
and lagoons furnish all that they can harvest. Shrimps and oysters 
are plentiful in their season. The fishing industry is of course 
confined to coastal towns, and as there are no means of supplying 
inland towns the consumption of the fresh article is confined to 
the coast. 

Building as a profession is almost unknown ; houses as a rule 
are built by men clubbing together, but there are always a few 
experts among them in particular lines, either in building the mud 
walls or in roofing and they distribute themselves accordingly. 
These are always in requisition whenever they can be spared 
from their farms. Large works are undertaken and arranged for, 
when all hands can conveniently be spared from their farms. 

Pastoral Work as a profession is carried on only in the northern 
provinces more suited for that purpose from the extensive plain 
and pasture land of those regions. But very few Yorubas are 
found engaged in it. Gambaris (i.e. Hausas) are generally engaged 
by the chiefs to tend their cattle. 

The barbers and ropemakers are also mostly Hausas and 
Fulanis, these are crafts rarely practised by Yorubas. 

These Hausas also perform some minor surgical operations 
such as cupping, bone-setting, tapping hydroceles, etc. Some 
are even oculists, and profess to be able to operate for cataract. 
It goes without saying that much mischief is often done by their 
crude performances. They are unskilled and the instruments 
used are rather clumsy. It is a wonder that more mischief 
is not done, or that they occasionally get good results at all. 

Occupations of Women 

It is specially the province of women advanced in age to seed 
cotton and spin thread. The former is done by rolling out the 


seeds from the wool between a smooth log of hard wood and a 
polished iron rod, the latter by weighting a thin rod of about 
12 inches long with a small ball of clay about i inch distant from one 
end, attaching the cotton to the other end and setting the ball spin- 
ning like a top, the wool being rapidly drawn out to the required 
fineness. Seeded cotton is rendered fluffy for spinning by being 
attached to the string of a bent bow, and the string constantly 
pulled as if shooting an arrow. These operations being an occupa- 
tion of a sedentary nature, and more suitable for old women are 
performed by them leisurely all day. Reels of spun thread are 
sold to dyers. 

Aged women who reside in the farms also employ their time 
in shelling the kernels from the pcdm nuts, and also tending 
poultry, goats and sheep for the market. 

Dyeing is done by women. They buy a quantity of the yarn, 
bleach and dye them in various colours, and sell them to the 
weavers, male or female. The commonest colour is blue or blue 
black from the indigo dye. The preparation of indigo balls for 
the market is also an important industry. Women are equally 
with men engaged in trading and weaving ; but whereas men 
weave in small breadths and carry on their occupation in courtyards 
or secluded squares in the streets where they can stretch their 
warp 20 yards or more, the women on the contrary fix their 
looms in the piazza of the house, close to the door of their apart- 
ments where they may be seen sitting on the ground, with their 
legs in a hole under the loom ; they weave the cloths in broad 
pieces called Kijipa two or three breadths forming a covering. 

The warp is wound round two stout bamboo poles fixed athwart 
two strong upright posts, top and bottom. There is a mechanism 
by which the threads can be made to cross each other. The 
woof in rods of about a yard long is passed slowly right and left 
as the warp is opened and separated one way and the other, being 
rammed down each time by a flat smooth staff. 

Besides indigo dyes of light blue and dark shades, the scarlet 
called ilaharl and roagh silk, Samayan in grey are the prevailing 
colours of Yoruba yarn. 

Palm oil making and nut oil making from the kernels of the palm 
nuts, as well as shea butter from the shea fruit are exclusively 
female industries. 

Beer-brewing from guinea corn or maize is done also by women ; 
for this they have a sheltered place within or near the compound 
to insure protection against fire. 

A large class is engaged in preparing articles of food. They are 
purveyors of cooked food, keepers of refreshment stalls and other 


branches of dietary for the market, especially to accommodate 
working men and caravans. 

The manufacture of beads from the hard shells of palm nuts, or 
from the cocoa nut shells, is an important female industry. The 
former quality is more highly valued. 

Pottery is also a female industry. Men may sometimes be seen 
assisting to dig up the clay and to perform some rough initial 
work, but as a rule the whole industry is in the hands of women. 
The drying, pulverising, sifting, mixing and moulding, are all 
done by women and girls. 

Large pots for brewing beer, and for setting indigo dyes, and 
cooking Eko (the morning gruel) for sale are turned out with 
marvellous skill. Cooking utensils, dishes, water pots, etc., are 
also made for the markets. Some parts of the country furnish 
clay of superior quality, notably Ilorin. 

Although ignorant of the use of the wheel, or any such mechanical 
contrivance used in pottery, yet the figures, forms and shapes of 
the articles turned out are wonderfully correct. 

Every woman whatever her trade may be, is expected to keep 
a few chickens and a goat or two from which she derives smeill 
income for house keeping and general " pin money." The rearing 
of poultry then must be reckoned among female occupations. 

Hair dressing may also be mentioned among female occupations, 
for although the race has not much to boast of in that form of 
natural adornment, yet they often contrive to bring out styles 
and fashions which satisfy them ; but a marked distinction must 
always be made between that of married women and the 
unmarried ; this is a social law which on no account should ever 
be infringed. 

On the whole the women seem to be far more industrious than 
the men, for whereas the men always contrive to have leisure 
hours and off days from work, the women seem to have none. 
Boys and young men certainly have more idle hours than the girls. 
The care of the children also devolves almost entirely upon their 
mother, an inevitable result of polygamy. 

§ {g) Learning 

As the Yorubas have no knowledge of letters, their learning 
consists chiefly in oral traditions. The historians are the King's 
cymbaUists and ballad singers, the chief of whom is called the 
Ologbo or Arokin. They may be compared to the rhapsodists 
of the Homeric age, as they perform almost precisely similar 
functions. They chant to the King the story of the nation, and 
history of former reigns, for his information and instruction. They 


are kept in the royal service and are well supported. The office 
is hereditary. 

Like many other heathen nations the Yorubas have their 
tradition about the creation and the deluge. It is their belief 
that at the creation men fed on wood and water, that they had a 
long projecting mouth ; that the bat was originally a creature in 
human form, and was a black-smith by trade, and that with his 
instrument he reduced men's mouths to their present shape, for 
which cause he was condemned to lose the human form and to 
assume that of a beast, and to use one and the same mouth for 
receiving food as well as for evacuation. The allegation that 
water was the original food of man is supported by the fact that 
it is the first thing taken by a new-born babe, as well as the last 
thing taken at a man's dying moments. 

§ (h) Wealthy Personages 

There were certain historical personages in Yoruba who were 
noted for their great wealth, viz., Amoloku of Oro, Gedegbe of 
Qfa, Lapemo of Ijomu near C>r6, Onibiy6 of Guguru, Minimi 
of Erubu. There is also a sixth spoken of who resided at Gbudu. 
There was also a lady known as the Olowo of Ijebu. 

§ (i) The Iwofa System and the Laws Regulating it 

The term Iwofa has no equivalent in English. It denotes one 
who serves another periodically in lieu of the interest on money 
lent. In short, it is one in service for interest. 

It has been mistranslated a "pawn" by those who fancied 
they saw a resemblance to it in that system, and are trying to 
identify everything native with those that are foreign, and conse- 
quently, as in other similar cases, much mischief has been done 

The Yoruba man is simply shocked to hear of " pawning " 
a man as is done with goods and chattels ; to pawn in Yoruba is 
ft dogd which term is never applied to a human being. 

It has also been compared to slavery by those ignorant of 
the legal conditions ruling the system ; but an Iwofa is a free 
man, his social status remains the same, his civil and political rights 
are intact, and he is only subject to his master in the same universal 
sense that " a borrower is servant to the lender." 

Iwofas are held quite distinct from slaves ; the verbs applied 
to each system mark the distinction e.g. rd to buy is applied to 
a slave, yd to lend or engage (a hand) to an Iwofa ; consequently 
you can buy a slave, but engage an Iwofa or service man. 

The derivation of the term- is probably from Iwo the entering 


into, and Efk a period of six days ; hence an Iwgfa is one who 
enters into a recurrent sixth day service. 

The Iwofa system is a contract entered into in the presence 
of witnesses called Onigbgwo i.e. sponsors, the money-lender 
is termed Oluwa i.e. master, and the worker Iwofa, i.e. a service 

It is a legal transaction recognized and protected by the laws of 
the country. Whatsoever the amount of money lent, it is the 
law that the service rendered goes for the interest, and only the 
principal is paid back whenever payment is made whether after 
a few days or after many years. 

An Iwgfa may be a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, and the 
laws for each differ accordingly. 

A man Iwgfa lives in his own house and plies his own trade, 
but he is required to clean a piece of land equal to lOO yam 
heaps or an equivalent in his master's farm once a week, the 
Yoruba week consisting of five days. 

The people being mainly agricultural, farm-cleaning is the 
work of their daily life, and is the recognized ordinary system of 

Cleaning three hundred heaps is the ordinary amount of an 
average man's day's work, consequently a strong man often 
found it possible to work in three different farms on the same 
day, for different masters, or to do three week's work at a time in 
one farm, and have 14 off days at a stretch, in which he is free 
to follow his own trade without interruption. Special arrange- 
ments can also be made if a longer period is desired, but the 
Iwgfa is bound to make up for the number of days lost. 

This is the original law, but it is subject to slight modification 
or variation in various places, according to the local value, or the 
amount of money lent ; e.g. amongst the Egbas, a whole day's 
work is required instead of a morning's work. But whatever 
modification of the original law is made in any particular locality, 
the law for that tribe is always fixed by authority, and never subject 
to the whims and caprice of an individual money-lender. 

The master is to treat the service man as his social rank demands, 
he mingles freely with his equals in the house or in the field as 
a member of the household. A kind master often allows him 
his breakfast before he quits the field although he is not bound to 
do so, and if a master be too exacting or disagreeable, he may be 
changed any day without any previous notice, once the money 
lent is paid back in full. 

Where the master is a great chief or a rich man, the service man 
may live under his protection and own him his feudal lord ; hence 


some men never troubled themselves to pay back the money, 
but may rather incur further obligations, being safe and free under 
the protection of a great name. Some men there are ,who are 
better able to do another man's work than their own. 

An Iwofa is never subject to punishment physical or otherwise, 
if he fail in his weekly service, the sponsors are called upon to make 
good the deficiencies. 

In fine an Iwofa differs from a slave in that a slave must live 
with his master, an Iwofa in his own house. A slave can be 
compelled to work for his master every day, an Iwofa for a limited 
amount of work for half a day in the week, and that not by com- 
pulsion but from obligations of honour. A slave can be punished, 
an Iwofa cannot be. A slave has lost his independence and 
political rights, an Iwofa retains both. A slave has no one 
responsible for him, an Iwofa has two at least. In fine an Iwofa 
can go and come as he likes, a slave cannot. 

For women the same law holds good generally but with some 
modifications on account of their sex ; they work generally as 
char-women once a week, and have a meal in the house before 
returning home. In some cases they may live among the women 
folk in their master's house, carrying on their own work, and lending 
a helping hand in the housework and in harvest time do their own 
share of the day's work in the field along with the other women. 

Some are engaged in trade, in which they sell for their master at 
the same time, and bring him the proceeds of his own articles 
as the allotted service rendered. When the trade is done in the 
home market, payments are made every nine days which are 
market days ; when out of town, at the return of the caravan. 

If a service woman is tampered with by the master, the money 
is thereby considered absolutely paid, and the debt discharged. 
If forced against her will, not only is the debt cancelled, but he 
is also liable to prosecution and heavy fines besides to be paid 
both to the woman's husband as damages and to the town author- 
ities as court fees. 

If a young unmarried woman is tampered with, not only is 
the debt ipso facto discharged, but the master has to repay the 
fiance all the money he has spent on her and also a betrothal 
" dowry " to the parents besides. 

If the matter is not arranged amicably and the case has to go 
before the town authorities, the master has to pay, and heavy 
fines are inflicted on him besides. Often has a rich man been 
reduced to poverty by this means and consequently they are 
always very careful. 
If a betrothed girl becomes marriageable whilst in service 


and her fianU wishes to get married at once, he has only to pay 
back the loan and lead his intended bride away. A woman 
cannot be married whilst doing service work. 

A boy or a girl in service has to live entirely with the master or 
mistress as a domestic servant, inasmuch as their services are 
not worth much and they have to be trained besides, and the 
parent or whoever placed him there is supposed to have his whole 
time to ply his trade and withdraw his child as soon as possible ; 
therefore, the boy must give the master his whole time whatever 
that may be worth. The master is bound to feed him but not 
necessarily to clothe him, although many kind masters do that as 
well. They have a fixed time to visit their parents, usually once 
a week. 

The boys generally tend horses and run errands, and the girls 
engage with the house-wives in domestic affairs. They are 
always with the boys and girls of their own age in the family. 

The law protects such children very strongly. If the child 
refuse to stay any longer with the master or mistress for any cause 
whatever, they are never forced against their wish, but the parent 
or guardian must provide a substitute, or perform himself the 
weekly task. 

If a child die during his or her service, the master must prove 
to the satisfaction of the parents and (if need be) of the town 
authorities that it was not due to any act of carelessness or neglect 
on his part, and that he provided ample medical aid for him. 

The troubles accruing from young Iwofas are often a deterrent 
to the acceptance of them for service ; some folks would expect 
and demand more comforts for their children in service than they 
can provide for them at home. Marriages and funerals are the 
two great causes of money borrowing. 

But this system is not limited alone to the business of pro- 
fessional money-lenders, it enters much into other transactions 
of their everyday life. 

The system of engaging domestic servants for service with 
a monthly wage is unknown in this country, the Iwofa system is 
what is resorted to for that purpose. A parent will even put his 
child into service that way when there is no debt to pay in order 
to train him into habits of discipline and industry, and return 
the money when they feel that the child has been safhciently 

Some would do so and put the money into trade and when 
satisfied with the profits made, return the principal and bring the 
child home. 

The system is used also for apprenticeship. A man who wants 


his son to learn a particular trade would put him under the crafts- 
man for the purpose, and obtain from him a certain amount of 
money ; the master, wishing to get his interest out of the boy 
willsee that he learns speedily and well, so as to be of some use 
to him. In this way both are benefited. 

A chief or a well-to-do gentleman with a wild and unruly son 
whom he wishes to tame, or who is indulged at home, would also 
resort to this method for training and discipline ; in such a case 
the boy will remaiii with such a handicraftsman until he is able to 
earn his own livelihood by his craft, then the money is paid back 
and the boy returns home. 

This method of lending money is the only one known for invest- 
ment and is therefore resorted to as their banking system. 

So the Iwofa system may be regarded at one and the same 
time as one for banking, apprenticeship, and domestic service. 

Since the establishment of the British Protectorate there 
•has been more than one attempt made to abolish the system as 
a " species of slavery ! " The Yorubas themselves never at any 
time regarded it as such ; to so regard it must be due either 
to an ignorance of the/ laws regulating it, or because an exact 
equivalent cannot be found in any European system. It can, 
however, be imagined what chaos will result in any European 
country if the banking system, apprenticeship, and domestic 
service were abolished at a stroke — if that be possible. Like any 
other system it may be reformed if given to abuse, that is more 
reasonable and statesmanlike. But to abolish it outright because 
it has no foreign analogue would be to disorganize the social life 
of a people with no compensating advantage to borrower or lender. 
If such were done in this case the greatest sufferers will be those 
it was intended to benefit, viz., the service men themselves. But 
with the country now settled, and everyone free to prosecute his 
business, there must be less of money borrowing and service for 
interest, and thus a gradual change or modification is naturally 
effected in this system, with no tendency to abuse. 

§ (j) Distraining for Debt 

The Yorubas have a peculiar method of forcing paj'ment out 
of an incorrigible debtor. When a creditor who has obtained 
judgment for debt finds it impossible to recover any thing out 
of the debtor, he applies to the town authorities for a licensed 
distrainor. This individual is called Og6, he is said to d'dgd ti 
i.e. to sit on the debtor (as it were). For that purpose, he enters 
the premises, seeks out the debtor, or esconces himself in his 
apartment until he makes his appeeirance, and then he makes 


himself an intolerable nuisance to him and to the members of the 
house generally until the money is paid. 

The distrainor is a man of imperturbable temper, but of a foul 
tongue, a veritable Thersites. He adopts any measures he likes, 
sometimes by inflicting his presence and attention on the debtor 
everywhere and anywhere he may go, denying him privacy of 
any kind, and in the meantime using his tongue most foully upon 
him, his own person being inviolable, for touching him implies 
doing violence to the person of the authorities who appoint him 
the task. He demands and obtains whatever diet he may require, 
however sumptuous and may help himself if not quickly served. 
If he thinks fit, he may lay hold on any poultry or cattle he finds 
in the premises, and prepare himself food, and all at the expense 
of the debtor. He must not take anything away but he may enjoy 
the use of anything he finds in the house. 

Loud in his abuses, intolerable in his manners to all in the 
house whilst going in and out with the debtor, he goes on in 
this way all day, and from day to day if needs be, until even the 
inmates of the compound get tired of this, and then means will 
quickly be found of getting rid of the distrainor by paying off the 

§ {k) War 

In early times war expeditions were sent out every other year by 
the AlAfin of Oyo to distant countries chiefly amongst the Popos. 
War then was for spoils and to keep their hands in, and not for 
captives ; the victors rarely pursued the vanquished ; those who 
concealed themselves behind heaps of rubbish, or in any hiding 
place in the town or in the fields were quite safe. When a town 
was taken the shade trees about the principal market — which is 
always in front of the official residence of the chief ruler of the 
town — are cut down as a sign of conquest. Slave-raiding and the 
traffic in human beings did not then exist. Long sieges were 
unknown, for whether victorious or defeated, the presence of the 
Kakanfo or his corpse was expected home within 60 days. 

There never was or has been a standing army, nor any trained 
soldiers (except at Ibadan latterly where the idea began to 
germinate, and some of the chiefs had a number of their slaves 
trained solely for war ; some chiefs had also a corps of boys, not 
to bear arms, but to be attendant on them in battle, in order to 
famiharize them with the horrors of war 1) But according to the 
custom of the country, every man capable of bearing arms is 
expected to serve in war ; but the law did not make it compulsory 
except for men of rank and title, and for home defence. 


At the close of every war, each one goes away to his farm, 
and, except on an occasion of importance, as when the King's 
messengers are to be received, even the Bale and the Balogun 
could not be found at home during the day at the busy seasons. 

Before the introduction of fire-arrtis (a comparatively recent 
affair) their weapons of war consisted of bow and poisoned arrows, 
a short sword called J^m6 and Ogb6 a kind of heavy cutlass 
used chiefly by the common people. 

As sieges then were of short duration and dways carried on 
in the dry season, there was no necessity to provide against severe 
weather ; the chieftains generally used awnings made of Ayin 
mats spread on four poles. Since sieges began to be carried on 
for more than 60 days, booths of palm branches have come into 
use, and in later times even these have given way to huts and 
houses built of swish. 

The preserved food used in earlier expeditions consisted of 
parched beans, and a sort of hard bread made of beans and corn 
(maize) flour called Akara-kuru. 

By the rules of warfare piye or foraging was permitted. The 
Ibadans, who, more than any of the others carried on war operations 
for longer periods, and over wider regions, were accustomed to 
cultivate the lands all around their camps and in the neighbourhood 
whenever a long siege was anticipated. 

War Titles and Methods 

War titles are of two grades, senior and junior, but both 
are modelled on one and the same plan. 

Senior Grade : — The Balogun or Commander-in-Chief comes 
first with his principal lieutenants the Otun and Osi, that is 
Generals commanding the right and the left wings, then the 
(Asipa), Ekerin, Ekarun and Ekefa i.e. the fourth, fifth and sixth. 
These command the veterans. 

Junior Grade : — The Seriki with his principal lieutenants also, 
viz., the Otun, Osi, with the Ekgrin, Ekarun, and Ekefa. These 
command the young warriors, and those not attached to any of the 
greater war-chiefs. 

The AsAj u is the leader of the van, he too has his lieutenants. 

The Sarumi or chief of the cavalry and his men form a class by 
themselves ; he also has his Balogun of the cavalry, with the 
Otun, Osi, etc. 

" These titles constitute what is termed " Oye Ilu" or "Town 
titles," because they are conferred by Bale or chief of the town and 
the town council, and they are all members of the town council 
with a right to speak and vote. 


Among the senior war titles may be mentioned the Bale's war 
chiefs. The Bale himself does not go to war ordinarily, but he 
has his war-chiefs, the Otun Bale, Osi Bal§, Ekerin, Ekarun, 
Ekefa as well, who represent him in war ; they are always chosen 
from among the older men who have past their best days. 

Signification of the Titles 

The term Balogun is contracted from Iba-li-Ogun i.e. lord in 
war. In time of war, and generally in the camp, the Ibalogun 
is not only supreme, but he is also above all laws, he commands 
implicit obedience from all, and he can do whatever he likes. 

The Balogun's Otun and Osi (right and left) are also the Otun 
and Osi of the town and of the army ; they command respectively 
the right and left wings, and they rank next after the Ibalogun. 

The Asipa is a title borrowed from Oyo to satisfy any war-chief 
who, being equal by merit to the Otun and Osi, yet just missed 
becoming either. 

The Ekerin, Ekarun, Ekafa are the fourth, fifth and sixth 
respectively of the senior generals. 

Seriki is a Hausa word signifying a " king." He is practically 
like the Balogun, and is as important among the young warriors 
as- the Balogun is among the veterans. A brave Seriki ranks 
himself next to the Balogun, the Otun and Osi Balogun notwith- 
standing ; for it often happens when he is exceptionally brave, 
that he skips over these and succeeds the Balogun, when a vacancy 
occurs. Otherwise the Otun succeeds. 

All booty and perquisites that fall to the army are divided 
into two unequal parts, the larger portion belongs to the Balogun 
and his lieutenants and the lesser to the Seriki and his lieutenants 
also. The Balogun and the Seriki are each entitled to one half 
of the portion that falls to them, the other half being equally 
divided among the subordinate war chiefs of each respectively. 

In every successful expedition each of the subordinate war chiefs 
is expected to give one half of his plunder or captives to his chief, 
the seniors to the Balogun, the juniors to the Seriki, and they 
themselves also receive the like from their subordinates. 

Subordinate Titles : — Every one of the above chiefs. Senior and 
Junior had his own subordinate chiefs modelled on the same 
plan of Balogun, Otun, Osi, etc., in the same way, these also 
form their companies on the same plan, and so on throughout 
the whole army. By this system every man capable of bearing 
arms knows his right place in the army, so that what appears to 
be a motley crowd is really a well-organised body every man being 
in his right place at the front, the right or the left of his immediate 


chief, although they lack that co-ordination and precision of 
movements which are the outcome and advantages of discipline 
and drill. 

Other subordinate titles Areagoro, Bada, Ajiya. 

Ar§agoro. — This is the first title borne by a young chief of great 
promise, who, as the heir of a great war chief has just succeeded 
to the headship of a great house. It is a stepping-stone to one of 
the senior grade titles. He is always attached to one of the 
senior chiefs, as his alter ego ; he represents his chief in the councils 
and other important assemblies in the absence of the latter, where 
he can speak and vote with equal right and authority ; hence the 
saying : " Ar§agoro ti o ba gboju t'on ti Oluwa re I'egb^ra " 
i.e. an Areagoro who is bold is the equal of his master. An 
Areagoro remains as such only till a vacancy occurs in one of the 
higher titles suitable for him. 

Bada. — The title of Bada answers in many respects to a knight 
of the middle ages. He is one who is expected to keep at least 
one or two war steeds and a few followers at his own charges, 
to be ready to take the field at a moment's notice, to be an accom- 
plished horseman, a skilful swordsman or lancer, and to fight 
always on horse-back. All the principal chiefs have each at least 
a Bada. The Badas stand in the order of seniority of their respec- 
tive masters and form a corps by themselves. 

Ajiya is a non-descript title borne by any junior war chief who 
cannot for the time being find a place among his peers. He is 
rather a free lance. 

Arrangement of the War Chiefs in Battle 

The Asaju or leader of the van comes first. His company 
begins the fight by skirmishing, and provoking the opposite party. 
He is supported by all the Badas. 

The Seriki comes next with his lieutenants in their proper order, 
and then the real pitched battle begins. Last of all comes the 
Balogun with his lieutenants. The Balogun himself, however, 
does not take any active part at once, until later on, except 
to watch the various movements and generally to direct the 

The duties of the cavalry are to reconnoitre, to hover about the 
enemy watching for an opportunity they can take advantage of 
such as a weak or an unguarded point through which they can dash 
to break the ranks of the enemy, and throw them into confusion. 
Also to cover retreats on a defeat or to cut off stragglers when 
pursuing an enemy. 

Occasionally at the height of the battle a brave horseman would 


demoralize the enemy by dashing suddenly into their midst, and 
return with a captive on his horse ! 

The usual method of a pitched battle is for all the war chiefs to 
be disposed, each in his right place, according to their rank and title, 
or as the commander-in-chief disposes, and then each in turn to 
march forward, company by company to the middle line of battle 
to discharge their arms, trying each time to gain more ground. 
This method they call Tawusi. But when later on, the Balogun 
himself rises to fight, that denotes a general charge throughout 
the whole host ; every man must be engaged in fight ; and where- 
ever he fixes the war standard, every one is bound to dispose himself 
about it in due order. • His going forward means that the whole 
army must push forward at whatever cost, for no one whose 
right place is in front dares fall to the rear of the Balogun except 
when hors de combat. 

The Bale's war chiefs need not take any prominent part in the 
fight, but they guard the camp and baggage, support weak points, 
and make themselves useful generally as men vvho must keep cool 
heads while the others are engaged in the excitement of a fight. 
Their chief duty otherwise is to act the part of advisers and 
moderators of rash and hot-headed warriors. 

A synopsis of the arrangement in battle : — 

The AsAju 

Supported by all the Badas 

Osi Seriki Seriki Qtun Seriki 

Ekerin to Ekefa disposed as strategy requires 

Osi Balogun Balogun Otun Balogun 

Asipa, Ekerin to Ekefa disposed as strategy requires. 

The Otun and Osi Bale and other older warriors are to guard 
the rear, camp, and baggage and support weak points. 

War as a profession in this country was always said to date from 
the time of the Fulani invasion and seizure of Ilorin when the 
necessity arose for an organized resistance but the Yorubas generally 
are not considered a fighting race, although they have now and 
again thrown up a general who would be considered distinguished 
in any race. In the later period of their history circumstances 
have brought things about that Ibadan became a centre for all 
warlike spirits of whatever tribe, and consequently it is to that 
place we have to turn, to see the development of warlike proceedings. 

How war is declared. — Every expedition is supposed to be sent 
out by the King (Alafin). It is in his name war was generally 
declared, and his permission or at any rate his assent must be 
obtained before an army can march out. 


When it has become evident that a place is marked out for 
an attack, a system of exclusive dealings is first established 
between that town and its neighbours ; then follow preparations 
for attack and defence, and when plans are matured then, 
at the usual meeting of the town council in the house of the chief 
ruler, the announcement is made. 

The Balogun (commander-in-chief) rising, would address 
the assembled crowd outside and end with " I leave (such and 
such a place) at your mercy." He is greeted with shouts of 
applause, and a day would be fixed when the war-staff will be 
taken outside the town walls. The marching out of the Balogun 
is always so denoted as the war-staff is always kept with him. 

The War Staff or standard of war is a bamboo pole of about 
four feet in length, and 2\ inches in diameter. It is wrapped all 
over with charms and amulets, and finished up with a globular 
head, the size of a large cocoa-nut. The size of course varies with 
the cost. It is encased in leather with the charms hanging all 
over it. It is always an object of worship. To this day, proper 
standards of war are procured from He Ife and are dedicated to 
Oranyan. Human sacrifices were usually offered to such standards 
before they are taken out to any campaign. Whenever war is 
declared, and it is to be worshipped, priests and priestesses are 
always required for the purpose of offering the sacrifice. 

The Propitiation of Oranyan. — The victim is usually subjected 
to much inhuman treatment on these occasions before being 
despatched. With his hands tied behind his back, he is led to 
the market place, and there paraded from one spot to another, 
and made to do homage to the fetishes there, and to invoke blessings 
on the town and on the chiefs thereof. As he could not conveniently 
prostrate himself before the gods in his bound condition, he is 
assisted with a forked stick, with which he is pushed violently 
down from behind ! Bruised and bleeding, he is to receive 
three strokes on the back with a rod before he is helped up 


In this way, the unfortunate one is soon exhausted ; he would 
then be literally dragged along into the grove sacred to Oranyan, 
and there beheaded. 

The blood is considered sacred and hence the commander-in- 
chief of the army who must be present on such occasions with 
his staff of principal officers must come forward with each of them 
and have a touch of the blood to rub on their swords, and after 
them the common soldiers would all rush in for a drop to rub in 
their hands, for success in the war. 

The corpse is not to putrefy before the Balogun leaves the town : 


it is considered an ill omen if it does. Hence Orauyan is never 
worshipped until they are quite ready to march out. 

The corpse is exposed for seven days, and it is the duty of some 
of the priestesses to bathe it daily and smear it with camwood 
preparations, and pray for the speedy return of the victim to this 
world and to be born in their family ! 

We see in these revolting practices, not an act of studied cruelty, 
but one of supposed highest form of religious worship of a poor 
deluded people. 

The blood of certain animals is forbidden to be used in the 
worship of Orariyan e.g. the tortoise, he- goat, hen and pigeon. 

§ (/) Funerals 

The Yorubas do not bury their dead in graveyards or cemetries, 
but in their houses. Infants, however, are not buried in the house, 
but their dead bodies are either thrown away into the nearest 
bush or forest, or are partially buried with a bit of earth sprinkled 
over them, and are thus left a prey to jackals prowling by night. 

Such children are called " Abiku " (born to die) and are 
supposed to belong to a company of young demons roaming about. 
They are beUeved to be capable of being born as young children, 
and (except forcibly detained by charms) of returning to their 
company at will, or at the instance of the members of their 

The graves of aged people are dug generally in the piazza or in 
one of the sleeping rooms. In case of the wealthy dead, after the 
ground has been dug to a depth of about 6 feet in the piazza it is 
then carried on horizontally towards one of the bedrooms, so that 
the corpse is literally buried in the bedroom. It is then shut up 
in this horizontal hole with a piece of board plastered over with 
mud ; the whole grave is then filled up and the floor of the piazza 
levelled and polished, the rest of the earth being cast into the 

Only the well-to-do can afford a coffin, the workmanship of 
which is usually very rough and coarse, the many chinks and 
interstices being filled up with cotton-wool and soap. As a rule, 
coffins are made much larger than we should think necessary, but 
the superabundant space is filled up with some of the dresses be- 
longing to the deceased, and with presents from all the relatives, it 
being a custom amongst them that all the nearest relatives should 
give each a piece of cloth for the burial. In the absence of cloths 
seeded cotton is put in to fill up the coffin tight, as they have a 
superstitious dislike of leaving any empty spaces in a coffin. 

In the practice of filling up the coffin with cloths, one may catch 


a faint glimpse of the popular ideas in regard to another state of 

If the family is wealthy, after a couple of months another 
ceremony is gone through, consisting chiefly of feasting and dancing 
in honour of the dead, and this they term laying the dead upon its 
other side. 

In cases where coffins cannot be had, after wrapping up the 
corpse in a mat like a mummy it is laid in the grave and a few 
sticks of the Akoko tjee are laid across upon which a mat is spread. 
If a piece of board could be procured, it is laid over the corpse 
instead, and then earth is put upon it, and the grave filled up. 

The funeral ceremonies are further continued by the following 
observances : — The wife or wives of the deceased are to lie on the 
bare ground over the grave without even a mat or cloth being 
spread for full three months from the date of the funeral. On 
the 7th day they are led out of their town wall by an Egugun to a 
place where mounds of earth had been raised according to the 
number of the women with a yam placed on each mound. There 
is an extra mound raised, on which no yam is placed ; this represents 
the deceased. The widows are led out clad in rags with both 
hands on the opposite shoulders, their heads being left bare. 
Each takes a yam from the heap, and this is understood to be the 
last subsistence they should expect to receive from their dear 
departed. After this they return home weeping. 

On the 13th or 17th day the final ceremony is thus performed : 
By the advice of the Alagba, they provide some heads of cowries, 
a dog, two dishes of pounded yam or cooked yam flour, two pots 
of native beer, kola nuts, parched corn, a hoe and a cutlass, and 
two coverings of native cloth for an Egugun dress. At dead of 
night a man goes and sits on the roof of the house of the deceased ; 
another who is to personate the dead, is secreted at the back yard, 
but within hearing distance of the former ; a third is the Egugun 
called Agan undressed, coming in the Alagba's company, speaking 
in a hollow, but thrilling tone of voice, crying out, " E gbe mi." 
(Do lift me up). Immediately several voices are heard " Lift here, 
lift there," as if they were carrying the Agan and found him rather 
heavy. As they enter the compound the widows and the other 
women are to rush into the rooms and ex'tinguish all lights. The 
Agan is then conducted to the piazza of the deceased where the 
special ceremony is performed. He sings out distinctly the name 
of the deceased so that the substitute might hear him, at the same 
time warning him not to answer to his call, but to that of the man 
on the roof. The latter then strikes the hoe in his hand with the 
cutlass as a signal to attract the attention of the secreted substitute. 


After this, he calls out in loud tones the name of the deceased 
as did the Agan. He calls out three times, and at the third call, 
which is also the last, a still small voice is heard from the counterfeit, 
simulating that of the dead. At this stage, the widows and all 
the other mourners begin to weep and wail for the dead ; the dog 
is then slaughtered and the flesh is taken to the Alagbas. 

On the following morning, the Egugun of the deceased, appears 
in his usual dress, with an attendant Egugun, both emerging from 
the Alagbi's house. He proceeds to his old home where a mat is 
spread outside to receive him. He embraces all his children, sits 
them by turns on his knees, and blesses them, promising to bestow 
health, strength, long life, and the rest. He accepts presents 
from all the relatives, who are the mourners — of stringed cowries 
from the men, and unstringed from the women. After which 
they repair with all the presents received to the Egugun grove 
or to the Alagba's where the Egugun is undressed and a good 
feast is made of the flesh of the dog slaughtered on the previous 
evening. The stringed cowries contributed by the men are there 
returned to each of them, being participators in the organised 
imposture that was being practised. The unstringed cowries of 
their dupes, the women, are distributed amongst those who took 
part in the ceremony including of course the AlagbS.. 
. This is the last farewell between the deceased and his family 
if we except the supposed annual visits made by the former 
during the Egugun festivals. 

In case of a woman the ceremony is simpler. The same offerings 
are usually required, excepting the hoe and the cutlass. The 
relatives are ordered to procure a miniature hearth, and put it 
into a new calabash to meet the Egugun of the deceased matron 
emerging from the Egugun grove. 

On the day appointed they proceed to the grove with drums, 
the orphans carrying each a horse's tail on his shoulder, as a 
sign of mourning. Then one of the Alagba's men calls out thrice 
the name of the dead matron, just as in the similar ceremony 
detailed above ; an Egugun answers from the grove and the 
voice is drowned with drumming and singing. The Egugun with 
the Paka (an attendant) now issues from the grove, and walks 
towards the orphan children to receive the new calabash containing 
the miniature hearth ; blesses the giver, and returns with it to 
the grove. The hearth is subsequently buried quietly by the river 
side or within the grove. 

This is the last office of a dutiful child to its mother and this is 
understood as their last meeting in this world. The hearth pre- 
sented to her is for her to cook with in the other world. 


The period of mourning for either man or woman is as aforesaid, 
three months, during which time the men are to remain unwashed, 
unshaven and the women with dishevelled hair and dress unchanged. 
At the expiration of this term on a day appointed the whole of them 
shave for the dead, and their hair is thrown outside by the wall 
of the house. They then parade the streets, dressed in their best, 
singing and dancing in honour of the dead, and calling at one house 
after another to return thanks to the sympathizers. The children 
of the deceased, begotten or adopted, now carry the horses' 
tails in their hands by which they are distinguished from those 
who have no immediate connection with the family. 

In the division of the property the widows as aforesaid pass into 
the possession of the children and the nearest relatives, the right 
to each being determined by ballot. Each male relative sends 
round his chewing stick (native tooth brush) with his name to 
the woman of his choice ; they are expected to reject the proposal 
twice as if they were resolved to remain widows all their life ; but 
at the third and last proposal, with tears in their eyes, they 
make their choice and are taken over. This concludes the final 

In the case of young men or young women, the proceedings 
are essentially different. The companions of him or her that is 
gone proceed in a body to a spot where two roads intersect each 
other, preceded by one of their number who stands at a great 
distance from them. The call as in the case of the Agan is made 
thrice, the usual answer follows, and then he or she is told by 
all the friends and companions " A yk o O ! " (we separate you 
from our companionship). The substitute returns home with the 
rest, and the simple ceremony comes to an end. 




I. The Mythological Period : Oduduwa to Ajaka 

II. The Period of Growth and Prosperity : Aganju to 


III. The Decline, Revolutionary Wars and Disruption: 

Aole to Oluewu 

IV. The Arrest of Disintegration, Efforts at Restoration 

OF Unity, Tribal Wars, the British Protectorate : 
Atiba to Adeyemi 



Chapter I 


§ I. Oduduwa 

Oduduwa the reputed founder and ancestor of the race is really 
a mythical personage. The Etymology of the term is from Odu 
(ti o) da Iwk. Whatever is unusually large as a large pot or 
container is termed Odii : the term then implies, the great container 
the author of existence. According to Ife mythology Oduduwa 
was the son of Olodu mare, i.e. the father or Lord of Odu ; ma r6 
implies cannot go beyond i.e. the Almighty. Oduduwa was sent 
by Olodumare from heaven to create the earth. Olokun i.e. 
the goddess of the ocean was the wife of Oduduwa, Oranmiyan 
and Isgdale their children, and Ogun a grand-child. 

Such is the desire of most nations to find a mythical origin 
for themselves through their kings and ancestors. 

All that was known of him has been told in Part I of this history, 
which gives an account of the emigration of the ancestors of the 
Yorubas from the east to He Ife where Oduduwa died in peace 
and was deified, being worshipped to this day by the Ifes, and up 
to the time of the British Protectorate, human sacrifices were 
offered to him at regular intervals. The soil of He Ife is said to be 
sacred to him. He was the grandfather and great-grandfather 
of renowned Kings and Princes who ruled and made history 
in the Yoruba country. 

The number of years embraced by this period is unknown, 
but it includes the time during which the Yoruba kingdom was in 
prosperity, and the Kings despotic. The capital of the kingdom 
then was He If§. 

The Basgrun of this reign was Qlorunfun-mi. 

§ 2. Oranyan 

Orafiyan the grandson of Oduduwa succeeded his grandfather 
on the throne. He was a very brave and warlike Prince, and of 
an indomitable courage. He was the founder of the order of the 
Esos vide Pt. I page 73. His body-guard consisted of 150 well- 
tried soldiers. 



How he headed his brothers on an abortive expedition to the 
east to avenge the death of their great-grandfather, and how they 
quarrelled at Igangan and dispersed from that place, has been 
told in Part I. After founding the city of Oyo where he resided 
for a time he was said to have pushed on to a place called Okd, 
leaving Oyo in charge of one of the princes. This is not unlikely 
when we remember that that was not an age of settled government, 
but that the warlike and restless King was engaged in extending 
his dominions far and wide. Much that was known of him has been 
told in Part I. He resided at 6k6 for many years and according 
to some died there, but others affirmed that he died at He Ife, 
where his grave is shown to this day. But the Yorubas have a 
custom whenever any one died away from home, to cut the hair 
of his head and pare his nails, and these are taken to the place 
where they would have him buried, and there ceremoniously 
and religiously deposited. It may thus have been the case here. 
But an anecdote connected with his later years must here be told : 

It was said that after a long period of reign an urgent necessity 
made him revisit the city of He Ife, which he had left for so long a 
time ; perhaps to arrange some family affairs, or to possess himself 
of some of his father's treasures left in charge of Adimu. He left 
his son Ajaka as Regent and went. Having stayed much longer 
than the time fixed for his return (communication between the 
two places being then dangerous and difficult) the people thought 
he was dead, or that at any rate he would no more return to 6k6 ; 
the OYO MESI who were the authorised rulers of the town conse- 
quently confirmed Ajaka on the throne, investing him with full 
powers, and all the insignia of royalty. 

But his father was returning ; and having come within a short 
distance of the city, his attention was arrested by the sound of the 
Kakaki trumpet — a trumpet blown for the sovereign alone. 
Upon enquiry, he learnt what had taken place. He thereupon 
retraced his steps quietly to He Ifg where he spent the rest of his 
days in peaceful retirement. An obelisk termed Opa Oranyan 
(Orafiyan's staff) erected on the spot he was supposed to have been 
buried is shown at He Ife to this day. This would seem to confirm 
the view that he died and was buried at He If§ and not at 0k6. 



Opa Or(7/7c/an 



This obelisk is about 10 or 12 feet in height/ and about 4 feet 
square in width at its base ; it tapers to a point, and has upon 
one face of it, several spike nails driven into it, and some carvings 
as of ancient characters. The nails are arranged in such an ordered 
manner as to render them significant. First, there are 61 in a 
straight line from the bottom upwards at intervals of about 
2 inches in midline; and next, at about a distance of 4 inches 
on either side of this, and from the same level on top, two 
parallel lines of 31 nails running downwards and curving 
below to meet those of the midline. Then in the space 
between these three rows of parallel lines, and about the level 
where they converge, is found the most conspicuous of the 
carvings, i*^^. 

What is conjectured as most probable in these arrangements 
is that the 61 nails in midline represent the number of years 
Oraiiyan lived, and that the 31 each on either side indicates that 
he was 31 when he began to reign, and that he reigned 31 years, 
the year he began to reign being counted twice as is the manner 
of the Yorubas ; and that the carvings are the ancient characters 
Resh and Yod which stand for Oranyan. 

Besides Opa Orafiyan, there are to be found to this day, in 
groves at He Ife, and at other Ife settlements outside the city, 
carvings in stone of natural objects such as tongs and anvil, 
table, stool, fish, and several other objects of curiosity which 
are generally hidden from strangers, because they are held 
sacred ; they represent the handicrafts of the founders of the 

The art of carving on stones or drilling holes in them has since 
become lost among Yorubas, and consequently, how nails could 
have been driven into stones and various figures cut out of them 
is usually explained to be, that these objects were once carved out 
of wood, and when the carvers were deified, their work became 
petrified ! As these gods were once men, so these stones were once 
wood ! 

The Ifes are the guardians and custodians of these sacred 
relics from ancient times. 

Nearly all legends and folklore are attributed to the age of 
Orafiyan, among these may be mentioned the following told by an 
ffe :— 

1 About four feet was broken off from the top of this obelisk 
during a storm in the year 1884. The obelisk has since twice 
fallen down and inartistically re-erected. But a stump of it now 

the founders of the yoruba nation t47 

The Legend of Moremi and her Son 

" Moremi was the wife of one of the ancient heroes of He Ifg, 
probably Oranmiyan. She was a woman of great beauty and 
virtue, and had an only son named Ela or Olurogbo. 

It happened that the city of Ife was at one time in a state of 
frequent commotion and unrest, owing to the repeated raids of a 
tribe of people called the Igbos. This continued for a series of years. 
The Ifes attributed this affliction and distress to the displeasure 
of their gods, because those that attacked them from the Igbo 
territory appeared not to be human beings, but gods or demi gods, 
and consequently the Ifes felt they could not withstand them, and 
so these raiders used to make away with easy plunder, including 
their valuables, with their women and children. For this they 
propitiated and called upon their gods for help, but received no 

Now, this Moremi, fired with zeal and patriotism was determined 
to do what she could to free her country from this calamity. 
She was resolved to find out what these Igbos really were, and 
how to fight them. To this end she repaired to a stream called 
Esinmirin, and there made a vow to the deity thereof, that if 
she was enabled to carry out her plans, and they proved 
successful, she would offer to the god the most costly sacrifice 
she could afford. Her plan was to expose herself to the raiders, 
and get caught, and be taken to their country where she could 
best learn their secrets: 'But,' she said, ' if I perish, I perish.' 

At the time of the next raid she undertook to carry out her 
plans, she was caught by the Igbos and taken to their country ; 
and being a woman of great beauty, she was given up amongst 
others, and sundry booty to their king. Her beauty and virtue 
soon won her a place in the country and the confidence of the 
people ; she became familiar with all their customs, and learnt 
all their secrets : then she also learnt that those who were such 
objects of terror to her people were mere men, who covered them- 
selves from head to foot with Ekan grass and bamboo fibres, 
making them appear extra human, and are nicknamed Eluyare. 
She extracted from her husband also the secret of attacking them 
successfully. ' If your people know how to make a torch, and have 
the courage to rush amongst them with lighted torches, they 
cannot stand that.' 

Moremi feeling she was now conversant with everything amongst 
the Igbos, having disarmed any suspicion they may have enter- 
tained of her as a captive, suddenly escaped one day to her native 
land, and by making use of the secrets she had learnt, freed her 


country for ever from the raids of the men once their terror. It 
remained now for her to fulfil her vows. 

She repaired to the stream with her offerings of lambs, rams, and 
goats for sacrifice, but the god would not accept any of these. 
She then offered a bullock, which the god also refused to accept, 
then she prayed the priests to divine for her what would be accept- 
able ; this was done, and the god demanded of her, her only 
son ! 

She then gave up her only son in sacrifice to the gods in the 
fulfilment of her vcws. The If§ nation bewailed her loss and 
promised to be to her sons ind daughters, for the loss she had 
sustained for the salvation of her country. 

Olurogbo however, when supposed to be killed, was but half 
dead ; he afterwards revived and rose again, and made a rope 
with which he climbed up into heaven ; and all Ifes to this day 
have a full hope that he will come again to this world, and reap 
the full reward of his good deeds." 

We may discern in this legend a confused idea of the story 
of Jephtha, and that of the Blessed Virgin and her Son perverted, 

Orafiyan was the father of al^ Oyos or Yorubas proper, and 
was the universal conqaeror of the land. He left behind him 
two renowned sons, Ajaka and Sango, both of whom succeeded 
him in turns, and both of whom became famous in Yoruba history, 
and were deified after death. 

The Basorun of this reign was Efufu-ko-fe-ori. 

§ 3. AjuAN alias Ajaka 

Ajuan alias Oba Ajaka was at first only a Regent when his 
father left for He Ife, but was subsequently confirmed on the 
throne as was mentioned above. He alone of all the Yoruba 
Kings had the singular fortune (or misfortune) of being called 
to the throne twice, being once deposed, but afterwards recalled 
to the throne. 

Very little was known of his earlier reign, except that, unlike 
his father, he was of a peaceful disposition, loved husbandry and 
encouraged it. 

Being too mild for the warlike spirit of the age, and tamely 
suffering the encroachments of provincial kings, he was dethroned, 
and he went to Igbodo where he remained in retirement seven years 
during which period his brother Sango reigned in his stead. His 
Basorun was nick-named Erin-din-logun-Agbgn k6 se da ni Ha 
(i.e. sixteen cocoa nuts is unsuitable for Ha divination). That is 
to say cocoa nuts are not suitable substitutes for palm nuts. The 
reason for this sobriquet is not known. 

the founders of the yoruba nation i49 

§ 4. Sango or Olufiran 

Sango son of Oranyan, and brother of Ajaka was the fourth 
King of Yoruba. He was of a very wild disposition, fiery temper, 
and skilful in sleight of hand tricks. He had a habit of emitting 
fire and smoke out of his mouth, by which he greatly increased the 
dread his subjects had of him. 

The Olowii at this time appeared to have been more powerful 
than the King of Ovo, for after the death of the uncle Oranyan, 
he compelled his cousin the peaceful Ajaka to pay tribute to him. 
This was probably the reason why Ajaka was deposed. 

On Sango's coming to the throne, being a much younger man, 
the Olowu meant to take advantage of his youth ; he demanded 
the tribute of him, but Sango refused to acknowledge his primacy, 
notwithstanding the Olowu' s threat to deprive him of his wives 
and children ; consequently his capital was besieged and a sharp 
fight ensued. Sango there displayed his wonted bravery as well 
as his tricks ; volumes of smoke issuing from his mouth and nostrils 
so terrified the Olowu and his army that they became panic stricken 
and were completely routed and put to flight. 

Sango pushed on his advantage, and with every fresh victory 
he was the more firmly established on the throne ; he thereby 
became elated and was tyrannical. 

It was his ambition now to remove the seat of government 
from Oko to Oyo then called Oyokoro, he knew he would meet 
with strong opposition from the prince of that city and so he set 
upon devising plans by which he could effect his purpose with 
as little fighting as possible. 

Sango was now possessed with a desire of performing an act 
of filial piety. He wished to worship at the grave of his dead 
mother, but he did not so much as remember her name for she 
died when he was but a babe. She was the daughter of Elempe 
a Nupe king, who formed an alliance with Oranyan by giving him 
his daughter to wife, of which marriage Sango was the issue. 
Sango therefore commissioned a Tetu and a Hausa slave to proceed 
to the Tapa country, to his maternal grandfather Elempe for the 
purpose giving them a horse and a cow for the sacrifice. 

' The King's charge to these messengers was, that they should 
listen carefully to the first name uttered in the invocation which 
evidently will be his mother's name. 

The messengers were heartily welcomed and highly entertained 
by Elempe, their King's grandfather, so much so that the Hausa 
forgot himself and the duty he was charged with. At the time 
of the sacrifice, the priest said at the grave " Tor6si, lya gbodo, 


listen to us, thy son Sango is come to worship thee." The Tgtu 
noted the name Torosi, but the Hausa, being far from sober paid 
no heed to what was said ; therefore, on their return home, the 
Tgtu who had faithfully carried out his orders was highly rewarded, 
and the Hausa slave severely punished. The punishment meted 
out to him was 122 razor cuts slashed all over his body as a lasting 
warning for all time. 

The scars left by these wounds strangely took the fancy of the 
King's wives who thought that they added comeliness and beauty 
to the man, and therefore they advised that in future such marks 
should not be performed upon a slave, but on actual members 
of the royal family as distinctive of royalty. 

Sango took this advice, and placed himself first in the hands 
of the " Olowolas " (the markers) named Babajegbe Osan and 
Babajegbe Oru ; but he could stand only two cuts on each arm, 
and forbade them to proceed any further. This is what is termed 
£y6. The marks are to this day retained in the royal family, 
as a distinctive badge of royalty, and hence members of the royal 
family are termed Akey6. They are two broad ribbon marks on 
the arms from the shoulder to the wrist. 

When the King had determined upon taking Oyokoro, it 
occurred to him to employ this as a device by which he could 
effect his purpose easily without loss of lives. He thereupon 
sent the Hausa slave to Oloyo-koro for him to see how beautiful 
this slave looks with these marks, and that it has been resolved 
to use the same as a mark of royalty ; he therefore advised the 
Oloyo-koro to submit himself to be thus marked, with his principal 
chiefs for rank and beauty, stating that he himself had done so. To 
this they consented, Babajegbe Osan and Babajegbe Oru were 
sent over there, and admirably did they perform their tasks. 

But on the third day, when the Oloyo-koro and his chiefs were 
very sore, Sango appeared with his forces against them ; no 
resistance could be offered, and the city fell easily into his hands : 
shamefully and brutally he put to death the prince and his chiefs, 
the dupes of his stratagem. 

Thus the seat of government was permanently removed from 
Oko (or as some would have it, from He Ife) to Oyo the ancient 
" Eyeo or Katunga." 

Sango reigned for seven years, the whole of which period was 
marked by his restlessness. He fought many battles and was 
fond of making charms. He was said to have the knowledge 
of some preparation by which he could attract lightning. The 
palace at Oyo was built at the foot of a hill called Ok^ Ajaka 
(Ajaka's hill). One day the King ascended this hill accompanied 


by his courtiers and some of his slaves, among whom were two 
favourites, Biri and Omiran ; some of his cousins went with him, 
but none of his children. He was minded to try the preparation 
he had in hand ; thinking it might have been damp and useless, 
he first made the experiment on his own house. But it took effect, 
a storm was immediately raised and the lightning had struck the 
palace before they came down the hill, and the buildings were on 
fire. Many of Sango's wives and his children perished in this 

Sango who was the author of his own misfortunes became 
alarmed and dismayed at what had happened and from a broken 
heart he was resolved to abdicate the throne and retire to the court 
of his maternal grandfather, Elempe king of the Nupes. 

All Oyo was now astir, not only to sympathize with the King, 
but also to dissuade him from carrying out his resolution ; but 
he could not bear any opposition, and so mad was he, that he 
even used his sword against some of his loyal subjects who ventured 
to remonstrate with him, and who promised to replace for him 
his dead wives by others, by whom he might beget children, and 
so in time make good his present losses. 

According to other accounts, he did not abdicate of his own 
freewill, but was asked to do so by a strong party in the state. 
Both accounts may be true, there may have been two parties, 
for to this day, Yorubas have an abhorence of a King given to 
making deadly charms ; because for one who already has absolute 
power invested in him by law, this strange power can only be used 
spitefully, so that no one near him would be safe. 

He was said to have caused 160 persons to be slain in a fit of 
anger, of those who were showing much concern and over-anxiety 
on his behalf, and who would prevent him by force from carrying 
out his resolve. 

Thus determined he set out on his fateful journey with a few 
followers. Biri his head slave and favourite was the first to regret 
the step taken, and to urge on his master to yield to the entreaties 
of those citizens of Ovo, who with all loyalty promised to replace 
his losses, as far as man can do it, and to rebuild the palace ; but 
finding the King inexorable, he forsook him and returned to the 
city with all his followers ; Omiran likewise followed his example, 
and the King was thus left alone. He now repented his rashness, 
especially when he found himself deserted by his favourite Biri. 
He could not proceed alone, and for shame he could not return 
home, and so he was resolved to put an end to his own life ; and 
climbing on a shea butter tree, he hanged himself. 

His friends hearing of this tragedy went immediately and 


performed for him the last act of kindness, by burying his remains 
under the same tree. 

On hearing of the King's death, his personal friends followed 
his example, and died with him. Biri committed suicide at Koso 
(where the King died), Omiran did the same. His cousin Omo 
Sinda committed suicide at Papo, Babayanmi at Sele, Obei at 
Jakuta and Oya his favourite wife at Ira. 

Thus ended the life of this remarkable personage, who once 
ruled over all the Yorubas and Popos. He was afterwards deified, 
and is still worshipped by all of the Yoruba race as the god of 
thunder and lightning. 

In every Yoruba and Popo town to this day, whenever there is 
a flash of lightning followed by a peal of thunder, it is usual to 
hear from the populace shouts of " Ka wo o," " ka biye si " 
(welcome to your majesty, long live the King.) 

Ajaka his brother was now recalled from exile, and he once 
more held the reins of government. 

Salekuodi was the Basorun of this reign. 

§ 5. Ajaka's Second Reign 

King Ajaka who was dethroned for being too peaceful was 
now recalled to the throne. He proved after his re-instatement a 
totally different man to what he had been before, and showed 
himself more warlike than even his brother Sango, 

He led an expedition into the Tapa country. Tradition has 
it, that he employed large and well-trained birds, armed with 
arrows, and after crossing the Niger they showered down these 
deadly weapons upon the maternal relations of his brother Sango. 

What is certain is, that the expedition was successful but by 
what means, it is not really known. But thus it was with the 
Yorubas (as with all superstitious people) that brave deeds and 
extraordinary acts of daring are always attributed to the super- 

He spent the latter part of his years in waging intestine wars 
with his subjects. He was said to have been engaged in civil 
wars with 1060 of his chiefs and princes among whom were the 
principal vassal or provincial kings, the Onikoyi, the Olugbon, 
and the Aresa. 

He had in his service certain " medicine men," who made charms 
for him, viz., Atagbgin, Omo-onik6k6, Abitibiti Onisegun, Paku, 
Teteoniru, Y5nk, Oko-adan Egbeji, Alari baba isegun, and 

The following fable was related of him : — 

After his wars, some of these " medicine men " went up to him, 


and humbly prayed to be allowed to return home ; but the King 
refused to grant them leave, fearing lest their services might be 
required by some other kings, and in that way, others might be in 
possession of the charms they made for him. As they were 
determined to go home they showed the King by demonstrative 
proofs, that they made the request simply out of courtesy but 
that the King could not detain them. Paku fell down before him, 
and disappeared. Tete oniru, Abitibiti Onisegun, and Alari 
baba I§egun performed the same feat and vanished. Egbeji 
threw up a ball of thread which hung suspended in space, and he 
climbed up it and disappeared. Elenre alone remained standing 
before him. Then said the King to him " Elenre, you had better 
follow the examples of your colleagues and vanish, or I shall 
wreak my vengeance upon you for their disobedience." " Kill 
me if you can " replied Elenre. The King thereupon ordered him 
to be decapitated ; but the sword was broken in two on the 
attempt. He then ordered him to be speared but the spear 
became bent and the spearman's arm withered ! He ordered a 
large stone to be rolled over him to crush him to death but it 
fell on him as light as a ball of cotton-wool. 

The King and the executioners were now at their wits' end, 
and then it occurred to one of them to " plough with his heifer." 
His wife Ijaehin being prevailed upon, told them that no iron or 
steel can affect him: "Pull off a single blade of grass from the 
thatch of the house, and with that you can decapitate him." 
This was done, and the head was struck off, but instead of 
falling to the ground, it fell into the King's hand, and he 
involuntarily grasped it. The King tried all his best to drop it 
off, but to no avail. Any food brought to the King the head 
devoured, and drank all the water likewise. The King soon 
became famished, he was losing flesh, and was really dying from 

All the " medicine-men " of every tribe in the kingdom were 
sent for, to disenchant this alarming phenomenon : as soon as 
anyone entered, the head would call him by name, tell out the 
composition of his charms, and then ask " Do you think that 
can affect me ? " Thus many were baffled, until at last came one 
Agawo ; this man at once pro:-trated at a distance and entreated 
the head to forbear with him, saying : — " Who am I to oppose 
you ? In what am I better than my predecessors whom you have 
already foiled ? I came only in obedience to the King's commands 
as I dare not refuse to come." The head replied " I will respect 
you because you are wise and respect yourself ; I yield to your 
entreaties." Then, falling suddenly from the King's hands. 


Elenre's head became a flowing river known at Oyo to this day as 
Odo Elenre (Elenre's river). 

His wife Ijaehin who disclosed the secret of his strength was 
also converted into a stream, but Elenre's head said to it " Thou 
shalt not flow," therefore Ijaehin became a stagnant pool at Oyo 
unto this day. 

From this incident King Ajaka made it a rule that from hence- 
forth no King should be present in person at an execution. 

He put to death all the vassal kings 1060 in number taken in 
war ; the relics of their skulls were put together and are worshipped 
under the name of Orisa'la to this day. This is the probable 
origin of that worship. 

The reign of the mythological heroes abound in garbled forms 
of scriptural stories, showing as was remarked in the earlier part 
of this history that the ancestors of the Yorubas were acquainted 
with Christianity in the land of their origin. The fable here related 
is evidently the story of Elijah in a perverted form.. His putting 
to death so many priests of Baal has been perverted into Ajaka 
slaying all his vassal kings and their skulls converted to an object 
of worship. His judgment of fire on those sent to arrest him finds 
a counterpart in Elenre's head anticipating those who came to 
exorcise it, both yielded to a wiser delegate who substituted 
entreaties for authority. The name Asawo (i.e. one who deals 
in mysteries) is very significant ; it is evidently a mythological 
rather than a real name. Elijah going up to heaven became 
Egbeji climbing up a cord and disappearing as the saying goes 
" Egbeji ta 'kun O lo si Orun," i.e. Egbeji suspended a cord and 
by it went up to heaven. The river Jordan crossed by Elijah 
suggested Elenre's head becoming a river, etc. 

The Ogidigbo drum was introduced into Oyo during this reign. 
It is of all drums the most inartistic, and is totally devoid of any 
embellishment. It consists of a block of wood about 3ft. in length 
hollowed out from the centre to about 6 inches of both extremities, 
and is beaten with a rod. 

It is used only for the King and theBasorun at the great festivals 
when they dance together at his public appearance. 

Nothing is known of the end of Ajaka, probably he died in 

Salekuodi continued as the Basorun of this reign also. 


Chapter II 


§ r. Aganju 

As Sango left no issue, the crown fell to Ajaka's son Aganju without 
any dispute. His reign was long and very prosperous. He had 
a remarkable faculty of taming wild animals and venomous 
reptiles, several of which may be seen crawling about him. He had 
also in his house a tame leopard. 

He greatly beautified the palace adding piazzas in front and 
back, with rows of brazen posts. He originated the custom of 
decorating the palace with hangings on state occasions, being a 
sovereign of accomplished taste. 

Towards the end of his reign, he waged war with a namesake 
of his, Aganju the Onisambo, for refusing him the hand of his 
daughter lyayun. In this war, four chiefs, viz. the Onisambo and 
his allies the Onitede the Onimeri and the Alagbona were captured, 
their towns destroyed, and the bride forcibly secured. 

The close of his reign was clouded by great domestic troubles. 
His only son Lubeg6 was discovered having illicit intercourse 
with his beloved lyayun, on whose account so many princes and 
people have lost their lives. The stern father was enraged beyond 
words, the sentence pronounced on him was the extreme penalty 
of the law, and it was rigidly carried out. But the King was 
overcome with grief, he died not long after this, even before the 
birth of a successor to the throne. The name of his Basorun was 
Banija, succeeded by Erankogbina. 

§ 2. KoRi 

The late King having no surviving son Erankogbina the Basorun 
was left to manage the affairs of the kingdom. The only hope of 
a direct successor to the throne was the child of lyayun still in 
utero ; hence sacrifices were offered frequently on the grave of 
Aganju praying him to grant lyayun a son if his name is not to be 
forgotten, and the dynasty end with him. When in due course 
therefore lyayun gave birth to a son, the joy of the populace was 
unbounded. He was named Kgri. 



During Kori's minority, lyayun was declared Regent ; she 
wore the crown, and put on the royal robes, and was invested 
with the Ejigha, the Opa ileke and other royal insignia, and ruled 
the kingdom as a man until her son was of age. 

It was during this reign that Timi was sent to Ede and not in 
Sango's reign as was supposed.^ 

The Ijesas proving very troublesome to their neighbours by 
kidnapping them in their farms, and molesting caravans to and 
from Apomu a frontier town where a large fair is periodically 
held for the exchange of goods with the Ijebus, and also getting 
frequently embroiled with the king of Ido their neighbour, com- 
plaints from time to time reached the AlAfin of Oyo. It was 
now determined that a stop be put to these inroads ; for this 
purpose the King sent a notable hunter to that district who 
succeeded in checking these marauders. He took up a position 
at a place called Ede as his headquarters, and there he subsequently 
established himself as a kinglet with the title of Timi. 

Timi was a famous archer, notable for his deadly arrows, and 
he more than justified his appointment. The Owa of Ilesa 
imitating the same appointment, posted an opposition kinglet 
at Osogbo named Atawoja ; but his chief duty was to worship 
the fish in the river Osun. 

As the Timi's duties required all his time, skill and valour, 
he had no time left to provide for himself and family ; the traders 
and caravans being now well protected, he obtained permission 
from the AlAfin to levy a toll of 5 cowries each on every trader ; 
by this means he soon had more than enough for the support 
of his family, and as a good and loyal subject, he paid the surplus 
into the royal treasury. 

After some years of this act of loyalty, he regretted this self- 
imposed tribute, taking another view of the matter, that whatever 
he could collect this way should be his own by right as a compen- 
sation for the loss of the advantages of a city life, as well as a 
reward for his labours. So he abruptly stopped the tribute. 

When the King missed the usual tribute, he sent to demand 
the same, but Timi refused to pay it, and gave his reasons for not 
doing so. This did not satisfy the King, so a more peremptory order 
was sent to Timi to deliver up what he had withheld. This order 
was also disobeyed, and so the King resorted to force, a body of 
troops was sent to arrest him, and to seize all his belongings. But 
Timi was prepared for this, he resisted with all his might, and 
routed the King's forces. 

^ Vide Yoruba Reading Book. 


But the King was resolved to punish Timi as a warning to others 
who might follow his example. Eliri-onigbajo the Gbonka was 
proposed to him as the only man equal to the task. But the 
Gbonka was already a powerful subject at Oyq, being the only 
man who dared to oppose the King's encroachments upon the 
liberties of the people, therefore, he was at first loth to accede to 
this proposal, lest a success might add an additional lustre to the 
Gbonka's glory, and make him more elated than before ; but on 
second consideration he consented, secretly hoping he might fall by 
the hand of his brave antagonist. So the Gbonka was appointed. 

The fight was limited to a single combat between the two 
chieftains, Timi armed himself with his bow and arrows, but 
the Gbonka carried a shield with which to defend himself against 
the powerful darts of his assailant. His own weapon of offence 
was a viol containing a drug with strong narcotic properties when 
inhaled, and by means of this Timi was soon rendered unconscious, 
and in this state, he was dispossessed of his weapons, and taken 
bound to Qyo. 

The King received the tidings with mixed feelings of joy and 
disappointment that neither of them fell in the combat, especially 
the Gbonka whom he wished to get rid of. When the illustrious 
captive was brought before him, the King pretended to be dis- 
satisfied with the issue of the contest, doubting its fairness, except 
the same could be repeated in his presence, so that he may witness 
it personally, secreth^ hoping that Timi might have a better 
chance this time, and that the Gbonka might fall. This desire 
was apparent to all present, and to the Gbonka himself ; however, 
he addressed himself to the renewed combat. The King ordered 
the Timi's weapons to be restored to him, and the fight resumed. 
To his mortification the Gbonka was again victorious amid shouts 
of applause from the people. Timi was not only subdued but 
was also instantaneously killed by the victor before the King and 
without his orders. 

The Gbonka to show further what he could do, and to strike 
terror into the King, ordered a pile to be made, and pots of palm 
oil, nut oil, and shea butter to be poured on it ; he then went 
coolly and sat on the top of it, and ordered it to be set on fire. 
All present were anxious for the consequence ; but when the pile 
was ablaze, the Gbonka disappeared. 

Courtiers now began to congratulate the King on the fall of 
his enemy by his own hands ; but he was apprehensive of some 
other issues " Not too fast" said he, " we must first wait and see." 
Tidings soon reached the court that the Gbonka followed by 
drummers, was seen dancing about the town. 


The Gbonka knowing the public feeling towards the King, and 
his unpopularity, entered the palace and challenged His Majesty 
to display feats similar to his own and said if he could not, he 
would be rejected. There being no alternative, the King took 
poison and died. 

Esugbiri succeeded Erankogbina as Basorun during this reign. 

§ 3. Oluaso 

The unfortunate King was succeeded by a handsome and 
amiable prince called Oluaso, who was remarkable for his longevity 
and peaceful reign. His agnomen was Osarewa S'akin i.e., 
handsome but strong. He was a wise and affable sovereign 
fabled to have reigned for 320 years, and had 1460 children ! 
Three times did nine of his wives bear him male twins in one day. 
The first set he named Omgla, the second Ona-aka, and the third 
Ona-isokun. Of these three sets of twins the last (Ona-isokun) 
were the most popular and Kings were chosen from amongst them 
and their descendants. These names have become hereditary 
titles unto this day. The King built 54 palaces for these 54 
princes all of whom rose to positions of trust and responsibility 
by their own merits. 

He originated and built 120 kobis to the royal palace. He was 
ably assisted by his Basorun, Esugbiri-elu. He lived to a good 
old age, and died full of days and honour, and his longevity has 
passed into a proverb. " O ni ki o gbo ogbo Oluaso, o le jiya 
Oluaso ? " You pray to live as long as Oluaso, can you endure 
the trials of Oluaso ? Old age has its own trials and sufferings. 
His son Onigbogi succeeded him on the throne. Esugbiri was the 
Basorun of this reign also. 

§ 4. Onigbogi 

Onigbogi was one of the sons of Oluaso by Aruigba-ifa an Ota 
woman. She had left Oyq during the previous reign for her own 
native town, but on hearing that her son ascended the throne, she 
returned to Oyo in order to assist him in his government by her 
advice. She was a very superstitious woman. Wishing her son 
to have a long and prosperous reign, she advised him to introduce 
the worship of Ifa into Oyo as a national deity. The Oyo citizens 
asked the King and his mother what offerings are required with 
which to propitiate Ha. She replied, 16 rats, 16 bags of cowries, 
16 fishes, 16 fowls, 16 arm lengths of cloth and 16 ground pigs. 
The Oyo citizens answered that they were prepared to give the 
offerings, but they could not worship palm nuts. Thus the advice 
of the King's mother was rejected and the worship of Ifa cancelled. 


When Aruigba-ifa was going to Oyq she was accompanied by 
the personification of several common objects used in fetish 
worship e.g. Aje, Opon, Ajere, Osun, Elegbara, and Iroke. When 
the citizens of Oyo rejected her god, she returned on her way to 
Ota with all her followers, weeping as they went. On reaching 
the foot of the Ado hill, the Alado's wife came out to see the cause 
of a company of people weeping and wailing, saying " We are 
driven out of the country." She reported this at home, and the 
Alado came out and invited the party to lodge with him. His 
inquisitiveness led him to ask why such august personages should 
be driven out of the city ; when he had learnt the whole story, he 
sympathized with Arugba, and asked her to stay, promising to 
give some of the things required, as they were too poor to be able 
to afford all. This was done, and Arugba not only initiated him 
into the mysteries, but also conferred upon him the right of initiat- 
ing others. Hence in the subsequent reign when the Oyos decided 
to adopt Ifa worship, it was this Alado who went to the city to 
initiate them into all the mysteries, rites and ceremonies of Ifa 

A war broke out after these events, and the King sent out the 
Basgrun at the head of his army to Ita-ibidun with all the war 
chiefs. The king of the Tapas (Nupe) between whom and the 
Yorubas there have been strained relations since the death of 
Sango, seized this opportunity for crossing the river, and pouring 
his army into the Yoruba country, carried everything before 
him, until he stood before the gate of Ovo. There being no avail- 
able force to oppose him, the city was soon taken. The King 
fled to Gbere in the Bariba country, and there he died not being 
used to the hardships incidental to the life of an exile ; leaving his 
son Ofinran a refugee in a strange land. In the land of his exile. 
King Onigbogi made it a law that only 35 of the Esos should be 
absent from home at any time, leaving 35 for the defence of the 
city and country, the Tapa King having entered Ovo practically 
without any opposition. 

Ayangbagi Aro was the Basorun of this period. 

§ 5. Ofinran 

The Oyo refugees were at first received with open arms by the 
King Eleduwe and his Balogun Bokgyo because Ofinran's mother 
was a Bariba woman. The refugees having no regular employment 
here, joined theBaribas, who are a race of marauders, in all their 
expeditions. In one of these expeditions Irawo in the Yoruba 
country was taken, and also Oke Isero where died the famous 
warchief Gbonka Eleri-onigbajo. 


After this, the Baribas began to ill-treat the refugees, but the 
young prince proved himself equal to the occasion ; he collected his 
people together, and set out at their head for Oyo. 

When they arrived at a place called Kusu, they encamped 
there to complete their preparations for the journey to Oyo. 
From Kusu the King sent delegates to Ota for Ifa priests, as he and 
his chiefs superstitiously believed that their misfortunes arose 
from their rejecting the worship of Ifa ; the Alado then came to 
initiate the AlAfin and his people into the mysteries of the Ifa 
worship. Thus Ifa was accepted by Yoruba proper among the 
gods of the land. 

The Egugun mysteries also were hitherto unknown to the 
Yorubas, by this means the Tapas have long imposed upon them, 
they believing in the reality of the so-called apparitions. On the 
hill Sanda at Kusu the secret was made known to Saha the King's 
head slave. 

The first Alapini with the other Egugun priests the Elefi, 
Olohan, Oloba, Aladafa, and the Olgj^, emigrated from the Tapa 
country to Yoruba, joining the remnants returning from the 
Bariba country. These became the first priests, and instructed 
the Yorubas further in the Egiigun worship ; therefore the honours 
and emoluments to be enjoyed in this worship by right belong to 
them and their successors unto this day. 

Before the encampment at Kusu was broken up, the King died, 
and was succeeded by his son Eguguoju. The deceased King's 
body was wrapped in an ass's skin to be taken to Oyo. At a place 
called Okutu-gbogbo the cord broke, and the body had to be bound 
up afresh before they could proceed. On the very spot in which 
this happened, the palace at Saki was built. 

Sokia " ti iwo ewn irin " (clad with a coat of mail) was the 
Basorun of this period. 

Chapter III 


§ r. Eguguoju 

Eguguoju having succeeded his father, became the leader of his 
people to Oyo ; the camp at Kusu was broken up and they carried 
the remains of the late King with them for state funeral at home. 

They encamped next at Iju Sanya, a desert place. Whilst there 
two large birds an Igbo and an Oyo were seen fighting, and they 
chased each other from the bough of the tree under which the 
King sat until they came down to the ground, and he ordered both 
to be caught and killed. 

This occurrence was regarded by him as a happy omen ; he 
therefore resolved to build a city there and to remove the seat of 
government to that place. From the example of the birds, he 
was resolved to fight to the last drop of blood in his veins any army 
that came against him there, never showing the " white feather." 
The city was accordingly built there, and was named Oyo Igboho, 
after the two birds, Igbo and Oyo, and there he buried the remains 
of his father. 

Nothing remarkable was recorded of this King except that he 
built Igboho, which became the last resting-place of four Yoruba 
Kings before the government was again removed to the ancient 

Obalohun was the Basorun of this reign. 

§ 2. Orompotq 

Prince Orompoto, brother of Eguguoju, and son of Ofinran 
succeeded to the throne. Shortly after his accession, troubles 
began to assail him ; he, however, proved himself to be a skilful 
and experienced commander, and as a statesman, he was unrivalled. 
In his reign Oyo regained the military fame it had lost. He was 
swift in action, darting upon his enemies as an eagle upon his 
prey, when they least expected his approach. He used all skill 
to conceal his movements from the enemy. His rearguard con- 
sisted of 1,000 foot and i,ooo horse, for each of whom he provided 
a broad ghaju leaf to sweep and obliterate the foot prints of his 
army on the march, the horsemen tying the leaves to the tails 
of their horses. 

But at the battle of Ilayi the King's army was routed although 



he fought with unusual bravery. He lost in this battle, three 
Gbonkds, leaders of the van. When the first fell, he there and then 
created another ; he also fell, and he created a third who also fell, 
but whose fall converted the rout to victory under a peculiar 

As he fell under showers of arrows in a kneeling posture his 
mouth remained fixed in a state as if grinning; the Baribas observing 
two white rows of teeth under his helmet thought he was playing 
them a trick, and that he was laughing at their fruitless attempts 
to kill him and put his army to flight, not knowing that he was 
stiff dead and that the Oyos were on the point of retreating. A 
sort of dread overcame them for a man it was impossible to kill 
notwithstanding showers of arrows hanging on him ! so they 
retreated thinking they had lost the day, and the Oyos remaining 
in the field claimed the victory. Hence it was commonly said of 
this man " Gbonka Orogbori ti o ft ehin le ogun." (The Gbonka 
of the ghostly head who routed an army with his teeth). 

How long this King reigned is not known but he was the third 
buried at Igboho. 

Asamu was the Basgrun of this reign. 


Ajiboyede succeeded to the throne. He was a most successful 
King but he was a tyrant. 

During this reign, the country was invaded by Lajomo, king of 
the Tapas. The King marched against him ; brave deeds were 
done on both sides ; at last, however, the Yorubas were routed, 
and the King would have been slain but for a circumstance which 
not only saved his life, but also turned the tide of victory in his 

When it became apparent that the battle was lost, Ajanlapa 
the Osi'wefa hastily exchanged dress with the King, and told him 
to escape for his life. He put on the King's crown and his robes, 
and the Tapas supposing him to be the King turned their attention 
chiefly on him, and showered upon him such a number of darts, 
that in falling his body was propped up by the shafts of the arrows. 
As the crown fell off his head (like Gbonka Orogbori of the preceding 
reign) a coward observed his teeth with the face set as if he were 
grinning ; thinking he was laughing at their futile efforts he con- 
cluded at once that they had supernatural beings opposed to them ! 
He was alarmed, communicated his fears to his comrades, and 
panic immediately spread throughout the Tapa host ; and before 
they could be rallied, the stampede had become general, and 
he pursued now became the pursuers ; the Yorubas returned to 


the charge, and the Tapas were completely routed, and put to 
the sword. Lajomg their King was taken and the victory was 

The King was so grateful for his life being saved by the devoted 
Osi'wefa, that he took counsel of all the Oyo nobles as to what 
honours he should bestow on Ajanlapa's son. He wished him to 
be his constant attendant, to be about him night and day, and that 
he should be free of any part of the palace. But such a post cannot 
be held by any other than a eunuch and to make him so would 
seem cruel and ungrateful ; but the Oyos counselled that unless 
he is so, he cannot enjoy the full liberty desired by the King. A 
painful necessity that seemed to be, but the King yielded to that 
advice, and he was emasculated. 

This circumstance accounts for the great honours attached to 
that office to this day, vide p. 59. The Osi'wefa is always the 
first as well as the last in the King's bed chamber. If the King 
is ill, he takes his place on state occasions, putting on his robes 
and the crown ; in war, he often appears as the King's deputy, 
invested with all the paraphernalia of royalty, including the state 
umbrellas, the kakaki trumpet, etc. Thus Ajanlapa by sacrificing 
his life converted what would have been a crushing defeat into a 
triumphant victory, and so saved his country from humiliation, and 
purchased royal honours for his family and for his official successors 
for ever. To mark this victory as well as his long reigp, Ajiboyede 
celebrated the Bebe festival. 

The Bebe is akin to a jubilee or golden age of a king's reign. 
There have been but few such in the history of the Yorubas. It 
lasts for 3 years, and during this period liberty of speech and 
action is granted to everyone, high and low, rich and poor through- 
out the kingdom, without any fear of being accused of sedition 
or treason. No riot or fighting is to be heard of anywhere, all 
provocations must be suppressed while the Bebe lasts, for no one is 
to be prosecuted during that period. All is peace. The King's 
Ilaris are rarely seen about on duty at this time, and when met, 
ne«d not command that worship and deference usually accorded 
them. No toll or tribute is paid. Everyone appears in his holiday 
dress. Country folks go to Oyo to enjoy themselves without fear. 
Festivities mark the occasion. Provincial and feudatory kings 
and princes, and those of adjacent countries pay visits to Oyo 
to offer congratulations ; presents are given and received in a 
lavish manner. The corridors and courtyards of the palace, and 
all the trees in the King's market used to be decorated with 
hangings of cloth of various hues, native and foreign make, as 
with bunting. One deplorable act, however, is a blot on theBeb§ 


celebration ; it is always accompanied with human sacrifices 
offered to the memory of all preceding Kings from Oduduwa 
downwards ; two to each, and their blood mingled with those of 
animals slaughtered without number is poured out, for the King 
and his courtiers are required to have a religious dance upon it ; 
and this part of the ceremony is regarded as the highest act of 
worship, and of thanksgiving. 

The Bebe is sometimes termed the Iht or funeral rites, as if 
intended to mark the close of a long reign, from the fact that the 
few Kings who celebrated it died a short time after. 

The three years festivities of the Bgbe being over, the Ba§orun 
celebrates a minor form of festival termed the Owara, and this 
lasts three months. 

A short time after these festivitives were over, the King lost 
by death his first-born son, Osemolu to his inexpressible grief. 
All the Oyo nobles who came to sympathize with him were by his 
orders put to death, alleging that their feigned condolence was but 
a mock sympathy, for since he was fasting from grief, their hands 
smelt of food recently partaken. An insurrection against him was 
quite ripe when a Moslem priest from the Tapa country called 
" Baba-kewu " sent his son " Baba-Yigi " to remonstrate with 
him for his unjust and cruel acts in avenging his son's death on 
innocent people, when his son had died a natural death. " This," 
said he, " is a sin against God who took away the life of your 

The King pondered seriously over this message, and became 
convinced of his tyranny. He convened an assembly of the 
Oyo citizens, and publicly asked their pardon for his unjust acts. 

He was making preparations for removing the seat of govern- 
ment back to Oyo when he died. 

This is the fourth and last King buried at Igboho. 

The Ba§grun of this reign was Ibat^. 

§ 4. Abipa or " Oba M'oro " (the ghost catcher) 

Prince Abipa succeeded to the throne, being the fourth and last 
King who reigned at Gboho. 

His first effort was to carry out the last wishes of his father, 
viz., to remove the seat of government back to the ancient capital. 

The Nobles however, and those born at Gboho were strongly 
opposed to the removal, but could not prevent or dissuade the 
King from carrying out his purpose ; they therefore had recourse 
to a stratagem by which they hoped to thwart his purpose. 

When they knew that the King was about to send to inspect 
the old sites, and to propitiate the gods as a preliminary to re- 


occupation, emissaries were secretly despatched by them to precede 
the King's messengers. The Bagorun sent a hunchback, the 
Alapini an albino, the Asipa a leper, the Samu a prognathi, the 
Laguna a dwarf, the Akiniku a cripple. All these emissaries 
are considered in this country as unnatural beings, suffering the 
vengeance of the gods, hence they are termed " Eni Orisa " (the 
belongings of the gods). They are usually kept as priests and 
priestesses to Obatala and other gods, especially the albinoes, 
dwarfs, and hunchbacks. 

As the King's messengers were about to offer the sacrifices at 
the place appointed, these counterfeit apparitions who, according 
to instructions had posted themselves on the hill Ajaka, at the 
foot of which the palace was built, by a preconcerted plan suddenly 
began to shout " Ko si aye, ko si aye " (no room, no room). 

At night they roamed about the hill, hooting and cooing with 
lighted torches in hand, and they were taken for the spirits of 
the hill refusing them readmission to Oyq. 

This report was very distressing to the King, and he was at 
a loss what to do. The Ologbo or Arokin (chief cymbalist) 
shrewdly suspecting the real facts of the case advised his master 
to send hunters to investigate the truth of the matter. B6ni, 
Igi^ubu, Alegbktk, Lgkd, Gbandan^and Olomo were the six famous 
hunters sent. They armed themselves with weapons and with 
charms to meet any contingency for self-defence. 

When these hunters discovered that they were human beings 
they came upon them, and one of them took his aim and would 
have shot one of the deformed beings, had he not cried out and 
begged for his life. They were all taken alive and brought before 
the King ; and being questioned they were obliged to betray their 
masters who were at this time ignorant of what had taken place. 
The King adopted a most characteristic way of administering to 
his Nobles a silent rebuke which told. 

At the weekly meeting of the King and the noblemen for the 
Jakuta sacrifices (which occur every 5 days) after the usual pro- 
ceedings and religious ceremonies of the day were over, and they 
retired into the banqueting hall for refreshment as was their 
wont, the King on this occasion sent to each of the noblemen a 
calabash full of beer by the hands of his own emissary the 
" apparition " of Oyo ! The Basgrun saw with ineffable surprise 
his hunchback whom he thought was playing the ghost at distant 
Oyo emerging from the King's inner apartment with a calabash 
full of beer for him, the Alapini his albino, and so with all the 
others, each one being waited upon by his own emissary ! Instantly 
a deep silence pervaded the room and the rest of the time was passed 


in an ominous stillness. The King and his Nobles parted with- 
out a word being spoken on the subject. The noblemen, however, 
showed their resentment by poisoning the Ologbo the King's 
adviser ; but he, in order to show his love and esteem for the 
deceased, ordered for him a semi-state funeral, and had his body 
wrapped in ass's skin to be taken to Oyo for interment. 

From this incident. King Abipa was nick-named Oba M'gro 
(the King who caught ghosts). 

Another nickname given to the King that had connection 
with this event was derived from his head slave Bisa, a Bariba, 
who was his favourite, and one time had great influence with his 
master. The King found out that Bisa was an accomplice with 
the Nobles in thwarting his designs. His Majesty now adopted a 
characteristic method of administering him a very sharp rebuke 
which he never forgot. 

He one day called Bisa, and told him that the Eleduwe (the 
king of his native country) was dead, and that the Baribas have 
sent to him to pay the ransom of Bisa, who has been elected to 
the vacant throne. "Now Bisa, will you go?" "Yes, your 
Majesty " replied Bisa, " and your majesty may be sure of this, 
that when I ascend the throne, the Bariba country to its utmost 
limits will be free and open to all Yorubas." The King then 
rejoined " Why do you wish to go to your country and yet you 
were trying to prevent me going to my birthplace and ancestral 
home ? Therefore, yoti shall not go." Bisa begged hard, but his 
master remained resolute, hence he was nicknamed " Ogbolu 
Akohun, Akohun Bisa jale " Ogbolu the Refuser who totally 
refused Bisa's entreaties. 

From this time Bisa lost all influence with the King. The design 
of removing the seat of Government to Oyo was now carried out, 
and Oyo from that time was known as Oyo O^Q ie- Qyq of the 

Those famous hunters remained three years with the King 
in the capital as his guests, until he was perfectly settled. When 
they were about to return home, the King in order to do them 
honour, sent a special messenger with them as his representative, 
and lest this servant of his should prove a source of expense to 
them, he was allowed the privilege of receiving tolls for his liveli- 
hood. He became really the new Governor of the town with the 
title of Onibode (receiver of customs) . Hence that title is bestowed 
on the chief ruler of Gboho to this day. 

The remaining act of this King was the consolidation of his 

^ Oyo is also sometimes called Oyo Egboro from the name of the 
prince from whom Sango seized it. 


kingdom. He buried charms in several places in the city that it 
might never be destroyed by war. 

When his " medicine men " asked for a new born babe to be 
used as an ingredient in the composition of the charm, it happened 
that one of his wives had just then been confined ; this being 
reported to him, he ordered the new born babe to be brought in its 
blood as it was, and he handed it over to the men to be pulverized 
and used for their purpose. This act is to this day highly com- 
mended by the people, and the King accounted a great public 
benefactor who so loved his country, that he sacrificed his son for 
the welfare of his people. 

O Yo was never destroyed by war after this event, but all the same, 
when the hour of retribution came, the blood of the innocents 
was avenged, for she suffered the fate of all cities destroyed by 
war. She was deserted, and thus she is in ruins unto this day. 

Ibate continued as the Basorun of this reign also. 

Chapter IV 


§ I. Obalokun Agana Erin 

Obalokun succeeded to the throne of his fathers. His mother 
was the daughter of the Alake, the Primus of the Egba chiefs. 

The most memorable event of this reign was the introduction 
of salt into the Yoruba country. The article hitherto used for 
it was an insipid rock salt known as Obu. Salt now known as 
iyo was at first called dun-mdmd. 

This King was said to be in friendly relations with the King 
of France (probably Portugal) with whom he had direct communi- 
cation. It was said that the King sent 800 messengers with 
presents to that European sovereign, but that they were never 
heard of again. Tradition says that the sounds of bells ringing 
in the skies was plainly heard in the Akesan (King's) market, 
and it was conjectured that it was the voices of the unfortunates 
speaking to them from the other world to tell their fate. 

What natural phenomenon this may have been due to which 
was interpreted thus, we do not know, but so it was believed at 
the time, and similar omens are not unknown to history. 

It was said that a white traveller visited Oyo during this reign. 

This King placed the first Ajele (political resident) at Ijana 
near Ilaro, with the title of Onisare. The appointment of an 
Onisar^ was regularly from Oyo and he must be a Tapk by birth. 
More of this will be noted hereafter. 

He sent an expedition into the Ijesa country which was ambushed 
and defeated by the tribe known as Ijesa Arera, the Ovos being 
then unaccustomed to bush fighting. So great was the loss of 
life in this expedition that the Ologbo was sent out as a town crier 
to inform the bereaved of their losses in this war. 

During this reign Sabigana emigrated from the Sabe to the 
Yoruba country. 

TheBasorun of this reign was Iba Magaji. 

§ 2. Ajagbo 

Ajagbo who succeeded Obalokun was remarkable for a long 
reign. He was said to have reigned 140 years and is an exception 
to the recent rule. 

He was born a twin, and so striking was the resemblance 



between himself and his brother Ajampati that the one was often 
mistaken for the other, and very often royal honours were paid 
to the latter as to his brother. 

Ajagbo was also a warlike prince ; several expeditions were 
sent out by him. 

He had a friend at Iwoye called K6koro-gangan whom he made 
his Kakanfo (vide p. 74). This was the first Kakanfo in the 
Yoruba country. 

It was his custom to send out four expeditions at the same time 
under four commanders. One under the Basorun, the next 
under the Agbakin, the third under the Kakanfo, the fourth under 
the Asipa. Those under this last consisted of the youths of the 

He destroyed Iweme in the Popo cpuntry. He Olgpa, Onko 
and his maternal town Ikereku-were an Egba town. The rest of 
his reign was peaceful. 

The Basorun of this reign was Akidain. 

§ 3. Odarawu 

Odarawu was the successor. His reign was very short. He 
had a bad temper which was the cause of his being rejected. 
His short reign became a proverb, and often used to point a 
moral, and as a warning to succeeding Kings and also to inculcate 
a lesson of patience and forbearance. 

On his accession he was asked according to custom who was his 
enemy ; he replied Ojo segi, i.e. a town in the kingdom named 
after the Bale thereof. 

The reason he gave for this was that when a private man, he 
was once insulted by the Bale's wife. The alleged insult was 
under the following circumstances : — 

He was accustomed then to trade in the provinces, and on one 
occasion he went to the market to buy eko for his dinner, the seller 
whom he approached happened to be the Bale's wife ; both buyer 
and seller were ignorant of each other's position. Eko then was 
sold for one cowry each ; he bought six and paid five cowries as a 
privilege of his birth. The seller not knowing that he was an Akeyo 
(prince) and considering herself insulted thereby, in the heat of 
passion gave him a slap, and called him a thief for the one cowry 
withheld ! 

The King's order for the destruction of the town was obeyed, 
but the Oyo people surmised that this would be a heartless tyrant, 
who, on account of a single cowry harboured such malice and 
resentment within him as subsequently to order the destruction 
of so many lives of his peaceful and loyal subjects. On this 


account, having fulfilled his wishes, he was rejected. He, therefore 
committed suicide. 

Akidain survived the late King and was the Basorun of this 
reign also. 

§ 4. Karan 

Karan succeeded Odarawu, but he proved to be an unmitigated 
tyrant. He tortured many of his subjects by ordering them to be 
scourged front and back until they expired ; so great were his 
cruelties that his name ha-^ ^"^c-^^ i^f^ a proverb " as cruel as 
Karan " and this led to a c,^^. ^ . mation of his reign. 

He sent out an expedition against Aga Oibo, and there the 
conspiracy against him was quickly developed. 

When the insurrection was ripe for execution, they sent a 
message home to him craving for his fan, as it has been told them 
by divination that the town cannot be taken except the King's 
fan be offered in sacrifice to the gods. This was complied with, and 
a portion of the sacrificial meat was sent him to partake of. 

As soon as he had tasted thereof, it was said to him " The King 
has eaten his own fan, his word is now of no value, " i.e., his 
commands have returned to his own mouth. This is a characteristic 
round about method the' Yorubas have of conveying intimations 
of what they intend to do. The army is now absolved from a 
charge of disobedience if they withdraw from the siege for the King 
has recalled his words ! All those who would stand by him were 
included in the plot. Iba Biri was elected to be the Basorun in 
place of Woruda who had succeeded Akidain. The Agbakin's 
son was chosen to succeed his father, and so on with the other 
titles. This done, they raised the siege and encamped against the 
city demanding the King's abdication or death. 

The King unwilling to die offered a stout resistance. He was 
personally courageous and brave, but he had the whole of his 
army against him. When they entered the city, he held out 
against them in the palace ; overcome by odds, he shot arrows 
until his hands were swollen. Dislodged from within the courtyard 
he climbed to the top of the roof, and there he sat fighting until 
the palace was set on fire and he perished in the flames. 

Thus ended a short and an inglorious reign. He was succeeded 
by his son, Jayin. 

Woruda was the Basorun of this reign. 

§ 5. Jayin 

Jayin was the son of the late King Karan. He was an effeminate 
and dissolute prince. He had his harem full of all sorts of 
characters. His son Olusi was kind and generous ; he was the idol 


of the nation, and on him they built their hopes for a better future 
for the country. 

Brought up amidst such demoralizing influences, in an evil 
hour, he fell under the charms of one of his father's numerous 
wives and was caught in her embraces. The father already jealous 
of the son's popularity with the people never forgave this offence. 
According to one account he summoned the prince before him, 
and whilst reprimanding him for his conduct, he was for a moment 
off his guard and thus betrayed himself by letting out the feeling 
rankling in his breast. " Villain " said he, " the citizens of Oyo 
prefer you to myself, and you are at one with them against me." 
Whilst speaking thus to him, he had in hand a club, the top of 
which was spiked and tipped with poison ; this he pressed upon 
his head to the point of bleeding, and the poison proved fatal to 

According to another account, it was a poisoned cake made 
of beans that his father gave him, and of which he partook that 
caused his death. Anyhow, it was certain that he died of poison 
by the hand of his father. 

He was universally mourned. The Oyo chiefs were detei mined 
to find out the cause of his death. They had a strong suspicion 
of foul play and were determined to avenge it. 

The King gave it out that his death was due to an accident 
from the kick of his horse. The secret however, was divulged 
by one of his wives, and the disappointed citizens became much 
disaffected towards their King. 

The late Olusi had a public funeral, a national mourning was 
proclaimed, and the public undertook to perform his funeral 
obsequies. His Egugun was brought out, i.e. an appearance of 
his apparition clothed with the cloths with which he was known 
to have been buried. 

The Egugun was said to have repaired to the palace, as was 
usual to pay honours to the chief ruler of the town, and as soon 
as the King showed his face, he was grasped by it. He was then 
told to die, having been touched by an Egugun. 

3ut according to another and a more probable account, when the 
King heard that his late son's Egugun in the company of others 
was coming to the palace, knowing what the most probable out- 
come of such a visit must be, he hastily took poison and died. 
And this has passed into proverb " O ku dhde ki a ko iwi wo 
Akesan, Oba,Jayin te ori gba aso. (At the approach to Akesan 
of a company of chanting Eguguns, King Jayin buried his head in 
a shroud.) Used of one who anticipates the inevitable. 

It was during this reign that an Ilari " Agbeja-ilfe " was sent 


to settle a land dispute between the Aseyin odo, and the Olowu 
Ipole ; he became the first Awujale of the Ijebus. 

Iba Biri was appointed Basorun in place of Woruda deposed. 

§ 6. Ayibx 

An inter-regnum of some years followed the last reign, the 
affairs of the kingdom being left in the hands of the Basorun. 
The heir to the throne was the late King's grandson, the infant 
son of the lamented Olusi, who was too young to administer the 
government. The Oyo Mesi elected him in order to do honour to 
the memory of his deceased father. Ayibi was crowned when he 
came of age. Unfortunately he proved unworthy of the honour 
and respect done him ; he greatly disappointed the hopes of the 
nation. This may have been due to a great defect in his training 
when a minor, over-indulgence taking the place of strict discipline. 
He proved to be a tyrant who took delight in shedding blood. 

When any suit was brought to court for his decision he often 
gave judgment by ordering both com.plainant and defendant 
to be executed. He had no respect for age, or rank, but terribly 
abused his power. 

As an example of his cruelty and arbitrariness, the following 
story was told of him : — 

He was one day in his bath, being attended by one of his 
favourite wives ; and she, in a moment of self-forgetfulness (or 
rather of amorous regard) said jocularly to him, " And this is all 
of the man so much dreaded by all ! " He took offence at this 
remark, but disguised his displeasure by a smile, but inwardly 
he was determined to convince her practically of the power which 
made him an object of dread to all. 

After leaving his bathroom, he gave an order to a Tetu (execu- 
tioner) privately to fetch the heads of the wife's father and mother 
each in a calabash, and decently covered up. This order was 
promptly executed The wife had by this time forgotten her 
remarks in the bathroom, as she had no reason to be apprehensive 
of any evil consequences arising therefrom. The calabashes 
being brought and set before him, he sent for her from her apart- 
ment, and asked her to uncover those , calabashes and tell the 
contents of them ! " Do you know them ? " asked he, " Yes I 
do," she replied trembling. " Then," rejoined he " that is the 
secret why I am so much dreaded by all, although to you I seem 
but commonplace and ordinary." She fully expected her own 
execution to follow, but he was satisfied with the pain and misery 
into which he had thrown her, and he graciously pardoned (sic) 


For this and similar acts of cruelty, an insurrection was stirred 
up against him by all the people, and being rejected he committed 

Oluaja, and after him Yabi were the Basoruns of this reign. 

The reason why these Kings after rejection invariably committed 
suicide is this. The person of a King is regarded as sacred. 
Kings are venerated as gods, indeed many of them have been 
actually deified ; but the moment a king's enormities provoke an 
open rebuke, or on being told publicly " We reject you," by the 
constitution of the country he must die that day. He cannot 
from the sanctity with which he has been regarded abdicate 
and continue to live as a private individual, or Continue to reign 
by sufferance, by the clemency of aggrieved subjects. Hence he 
must die ; and by his own hands, for it is an unthinkable horror 
among the Yorubas for any man to lay hands upon a being 
regarded as sacred. It is the prerogative of the Basorun to utter 
the sentence of rejection when the people are determined on it. 

Ev^en Noblemen also from their exalted positions are never 
ordered to execution. " The King rejects you. The ancient Kings 
Oduduwa, Orafiyan, Aganju, and others, reject you." He must 
then take poison and die. Such deaths are accounted honourable, 
public and decent funerals are accorded them. 

If any one allows himself to be executed his carcase will be treated 
like that of a common felon, and his house pulled down. Therefore 
a faint-hearted individual would be despatched by his nearest 
relatives to save themselves from indelible disgrace. An honour- 
able burial will then be. accorded to the illustrious dead. 


Osinyago who succeeded to the throne was equally worthless. 
He was an avaricious man who by exactions, massacre, and con- 
fiscations amassed wealth which he did not live long to enjoj'. 

His firstborn son, like his father, was of a grasping propensity, 
which led to his early death. The second child Omgsun, although 
a female, was of a masculine character, and she considered the 
rank and privileges of the Aremo (Crown Prince) her own ; but the 
King adopted a cousin Woruale (contracted to Wurale or Irale) 
son of Gbagba, a physician, his maternal uncle, as the Aremo, and 
this Omosun resented. 

It happened that a dispute arose between these two as to 
the right of appointing a new Aseyin at the death of the then king 
of Iseyin, and Omosun from wounded pride that she was opposed 
by a commoner, in the heat of passion slew Irale ! 


Irale's father Gbagba the physician was determined to avenge 
the death of his son, and this he did by poison said to have been 
extracted from one cowry worth of shea butter, 200 grains of 
beniseed, and other ingredients by which he effected the deaths of 
the King, Omosun, Apala the Basorun, and other notabilities of 
Oyo who were concerned with the misgovernment that was going 

He was said to have escaped to his own country by means 
of charms. One report says, he flew away like a bird, and was 
found at Ede ; another says he died and was buried, but his 
corpse became a red monkey which escaped into the bush. What 
was more probable was, that from the dread he inspired by his 
powers, he had an opportunity of escape, and was not slow to make 
use of it. The country was bereft of King and Basorun simul- 

The Basorun of this reign was Apalk. 

§ 8. OjiGi 

Ojigi who was elected to the vacant throne, was a powerful and 
warlike King. He extended his conquests to the Dahomian 
territory. In three expeditions headed by the Basorun and the 
Gbonka Latoy6, the Dahomians were brought fully under sub- 

Yansumi an Idahomian town was taken and destroyed. He sent 
an expedition also against the Igbdnas. 

This King in order to show his undisputed sovereignty over 
the whole of the Yoruba country, including Benin, sent out a 
large expedition which struck the Niger in the north, near the 
Ibaribas, and coasted along the right bank until they arrived at 
the coast and returned to Oyo by the Popo country. Great 
exploits were reported of the leaders. 

Personally, he was a very good man, but a too indulgent father. 
The Aremo by his cruelties and excesses brought about the father's 
rejection and death. He ordered Oluke the Basoran's son to be 
unlawfully beaten. As this wrong could not be avenged without 
serious consequences, and as the King did not punish the wrong doer, 
it was thought more expeditious to effect the King's death ; for 
about this time the custom began to prevail for the Aremios to 
die with the father, as they enjoy unrestrained liberty with the 
father. A pretext was soon found for rejecting the King and 
fond father, and consequently he died, and his eldest son with 

One of the most famous men in Yoruba history Yamba was the 
Basorun of this reign. 

a succession of despotic and short-lived kings i75 

§ 9. Gberu 

Prince Gberu who now succeeded to the throne was a wicked 
and superstitious King, much given to making charms. Before 
his accession to the throne he had a friend called Jambu whom he 
afterwards raised to the high rank of Basgrun. But it was not 
long before these former friends became disaffected towards 
each other. Both of them were one day sitting under a large 
Ose tree (the Adamsonia digitata) at Oyo. TheBasorun remarked 
on the magnificence of the tree which " bade fair to last for ever." 
The King made no reply, but afterwards poisoned the tree in 
order to cast the suspicion on the Basorun who had made remarks 
on it ; and before the next morning it had withered. 

Oyo we may remark is situated in a vast plain where trees 
are rarely seen. This was one of the few that grew there and it was 
much thought of, and was highly prized for* its magnificence when 
in full bloom. 

This circumstance caused a great sensation in the city among 
all who saw the tree flourishing in all its glory only the day before ! 
Enquiries as to the cause were keen and close ; it was at first thought 
this deed was done by the Basorun in order to frame an accusation 
against the King as both were seeking each other's life ; but the 
author of the deed was soon known. 

The chiefs of the town now grew suspicious and apprehensive 
of their own safety should the King add the use of secret poison 
to his unlimited regal power. They soon found a pretext for 
rejecting him, and he had to put an end to his own life. His 
quondam friend Jambu the Basorun who divulged the secret was 
not spared either, he soon shared the fate of his friend and 

Gberu's reign was short and inglorious. He was succeeded by 

Jambu was the Basgrun of this reign. 

§ 10. Amuniwaiye 

Prince Amuniwaiye who now ascended the throne promised 
well at first, by his clemency and grace; but subsequently his low 
morals rendered him weak and despicable, and, as such, a disgrace 
to his high office. 

He had for mistress the wife of his principal " medicine man " 
Olukoyisi, with whom he became acquainted under the following 
circumstances : — 

The King engaged this " medicine man" to help him against 
the friends of Jambu the powerful Basgrun who effected the death 


of the former King. Being afraid that if his services to the King 
were known, his own life would be in danger, he worked warily 
by sending his wife Ololo with the pots instead of going himself 
personally. In this way the King had the opportunity of coming 
into contact with her, which he disgracefully abused, and the 
husband got to know it. 

He could not bring an open charge against the King nor had 
he any other means of obtaining redress but by secret revenge, 
and this he effected terribly ! 

Olukoyisi prepared certain ingredients from the root of the 
Opgki tree which he applied to his wife unsuspected ; it was a 
fatal " tell-tale," for when next she was being indulged in the 
royal embraces, the pair of them got so inextricably adhered 
together, that it became necessary to resort to a surgical operation 
in order to separate them ! Thus both of them died in the act. 
Thus ended this inglorious reign. 

The Basgrun of this reign was Kogb6n son of the late Jambu. 

§ II. Onisile 

Onisile who now ascended the throne was quite a different 
man from the former occupant. He was a great warrior, and 
for his exploits was nicknamed " Gbagida ! Wowo I'^won ab'esiri 
fo odi " (Gbagida [an expression of admiration] a man with 
clanging chains [for prisoners] whose horse can leap over a town 

He was remarkable for his indomitable courage and lion- 
hearted spirit. He was moreover very artistic, and was said to 
have made seven silver doors to the seven entrances of his sleeping 

During this reign the Sekere (calabash) drum was ornamented, 
not only with cowries, but also with costly beads e.g. lyiin (corals) 
Okun (stone beads, Benin) Erinla (striped yellow pipe beads) and 
Segi (blue pipe beads), strung with silk thread dyed red ; all of 
native manufacture. 

His rashness and fearlessness was the ultimate cause of his death. 
He was cautioned against experim.enting with the "sun leaf" 
a plant known to possess electrical properties, by which lightning 
can be attracted ; but he was not the man to heed any such remon- 
strance. The consequence was that the Sango worshippers managed 
to attract lightning on the palace, the King was struck, and from 
the shock he became paralysed. Thus he was incapacitated from 
performing the duties of his office. 

The chiefs of Oyo then assembled and waited on him, and told 
him that as he had challenged Sango to a single combat and had 


been worsted, he could no longer continue to live. Thus he was 
rejected, and he had to die. 

The feeling had gained ground by this time that Kings should 
not be allowed to die a natural death. Unchecked despotism, 
unrestrained licence, insatiable greed, and wanton voluptuousness 
should not be allowed to flourish throughout the full term of a 
natural lifetime. The excesses of the Crown Prince also were 
unendurable hence the earliest opportunity was usually sought, 
for putting an end to their reign. 

His Basorun's name was Soyiki alias £)sij6gb6. 

Chapter V 


§ I. Labisi 

This unfortunate Prince was nominated to the vacant throne, 
but was never crowned. Only 17 days after he commenced the 
preliminary ceremonies, the new Basorun Gaha rose to power, and 
commenced those series of atrocities which made him notorious 
in Yoruba history. 

Olubg and Ajibadu the King-elect's friends were sum.marily 
put to death, and he, having no supporters was not even allowed 
to enter the palace, much less to sit on the throne. He had to 
put an end to his own life. 

Gaha had great influence with the people, and a great many 
followers who considered themselves safe under his protection, 
from the dread in which they stood of the Kings, because of their 
cruel and despotic rule. 

Gahk was also famous for his " charms ; " he was credited with 
the power of being able to convert himself into a leopard or an 
elephant, and on this account was much feared. He lived to 
a good old age, and wielded his power miercilessly. He was noted 
for having raised five Kings to the throne, of whom he murdered 
four, and was himself murdered by the fifth. 

§ 2. AwoNBioju alius Ouuboye 

Gaha the Basorun had by this time attained to great power and 
influence. He made himself the King maker and King destroyer. 
He did not aspire to the throne, for that was impossible of attain- 
ment, but he demanded the homage of all the Kings he raised to 
the throne. He raised Awonbioju into the place of Labisi. His 
reign was very short, having wielded the sceptre for only 130 days. 
He was murdered by the all-powerful Basorun for nobly refusing 
to prostrate before him, his own Chancellor. 

§ 3. Agboluaje 

Agboluaje who succeeded the late King on the throne was a 
very handsome and prepossessing Prince, and as he submitted 
to the powerful Basorun, he was allowed to reign for a longer 
period than the two preceding Kings. He was not as ambitious 



as some of his predecessors, he had no wars, the kingdom had 
extended to its utmost limits, bounded by the river Niger on the 
north and a portion of the Tapa and Bariba countries, on the 
East by the lower Niger, on the South by the seacoast, and on the 
West it includes the Popos and Dahomey. From all the provinces 
included within these boundaries, and by some including the Gas 
and Ashanti, tributes were paid to Oyq. Tranquility prevailed 
all over the land. 

The King thought this a fitting opportunity for celebrating 
the Beb§, not so much for the length of his reign, but for the 
peace and prosperity that prevailed all over the Kingdom. 

During the three years celebration, visitors from all parts 
thronged Ovg as was usual, but the most distinguished guest was 
the Elewi-odo, a Popo king, who visited Oyq in state and had a 
reception befitting his rank. He was a particular friend of the 
Alafik's, and usually supplied him. with cloths and other articles 
of European manufacture, being nearer the coast and having deal- 
ings with European traders of those days. 

As on such occasions everybody visited Oyo in his best holidaj' 
dress, so the Elewi-odo who was accounted proverbially rich 
appeared at this time. On public occasions the Elewi-odo sat 
on a throne opposite the King ; as often as the King changed 
his robes, he changed his covering cloth to one of the same 
material ; when the King puts on a robe of silk or velvet, he covers 
with a cloth of the same material. Both Kings were an object 
of interest and admiration by the 1060 vassal kings and chiefs 
of Yoruba, with the populace who were present on that occasion. 

But the citizens of Oyo grew jealous for the honour and glory 
of their King and wished him to appear superior to the Elewi-odo 
by robing himself with something the like of which even the Elewi 
had not ; but they found that he had nothing the like of which his 
friend had not ; so they had recourse to a device. The manu- 
facturers were summoned and the case put before them, and they 
promised to rise to the occasion. A simple gown was thereupon 
woven, of common stuff indeed, but embossed all over with the 
silken wool of the large cotton tree ; seen at a distance the nature 
of the cloth cculd not be made out by the crowd ; when the sun 
shone upon it, it reflected a silken hue to the admiration of all ; 
when the breeze blew, detached flosses of silk floated all around 
his majesty. Even the Elewi-odo and the provincial kings could 
not help admiring the curious robe which they took for something 
so superior, that none but the great Ai.afin of Oyo alone possessed ! 
The crowd went into ecstatic frenzy about it, and shouted an 


But the conduct of the Elewi on this occasion offended the 
Basorun because he vied with his sovereign. Therefore, after his 
return home at the expiration of the Bebe and the Basorun had 
celebrated his Owara as usual, he denounced the Elewi before His 
Majesty in the severest terms : that he came, not to honour the 
King but to disgrace him, to show off his wealth to the King's 
disadvantage, and, therefore, he was determined to punish him 
for his conduct. 

The King pleaded hard for his friend but in vain. " Every 
one " said he, " is allowed by custom to appear at Oyo during 
Bebe in his best, how much more should a king do so ? His action 
in this matter is pardonable, and therefore, should be overlooked." 
But Gaha was inexorable, and war was declared. 

The Elewi having been privately forewarned, attempted no 
resistance, but sent a private message to the King not to be anxious 
on his account, and that his safety was assured. He speedily 
crossed the Esuogbo river and escaped to the Tapa country. 

Unfortunately the private messenger arrived af Oyo too late 
to meet the King alive. Unwilling that the head of his friend the 
Elewi should be brought in triumph to him at Oyo, he took poison 
and died before the return home of the expedition His brother 
Majeogbe was placed on the throne by the all-powerful Basorun 

§ 4. Majeogbe 

Majeogbe did not fare any better than his immediate pre- 
decessors. His first care was to find means of checking the ambition 
of the Basorun. He could not order his execution, and the 
Basorun was too much on the alert to be taken off by poison ; 
but he set about making charms offensive and defensive in order 
to rid himself of this terror. 

Gaha had by this time attained the zenith of his glory ; his 
sons were scattered all over the length and breadth of the kingdom, 
they resided in the principal towns and all the tributes of those 
towns and their suburbs were paid to them. No tribute was now 
paid to the AlAfin ; Gaha's sons were as ambitious and as cruel 
as their father. 

Several anecdotes illustrating their wanton cruelties were told 
of them, e.g. : 

One of them once engaged a carrier to whom he gave a load too 
heavy for him to carry, but he dared not refuse to do so. He 
walked behind the man amusing himself with the sight of the man's 
sufferings from the weight of the load. He remarked in jest that 
the man's neck had become so thick that he doubted whether a 


sword could cut through. He suited his action to his words, 
drew his sword, and actually tried it ! The man was decapitated, 
and his body was left wallowing in his blood, and another man was 
compelled to take up the load. 

Another of his sons was said to have shot a farmer dead, whilst 
engaged in making heaps for planting yam, wantonly charging 
him with disfiguring the King's ground by making horns on it ! 

Another similarly shot a farmer dead whilst hoeing the ground, 
pretending that he mistook him for an ape on all fours ! 

Thus Gaha and his sons usurped all power of the government 
the King himself living in dread of his own fate at the pleasure 
of the notorious regicide. 

The King's own " medicine men " were not idle either. A 
lighted lamp was said to have been placed in one of his inner 
apartments which was kept burning for three years untrimmed, 
and while it was burning there can be no peace to the regicide. 

A horse was said to be in one of the stables and was heard 
neighing every day, and yet was kept there 3 years without 
fodder ! 

The AlafIxN's death was brought about by one of his sons quarrel- 
ling in theBasorun's quarter of the town ; this act Gahk resented 
as a daring affront which the father's life must atone for, the son 
being too insignificant for him to take any notice of. But the 
AlAfin had succeeded by this time in poisoning the Basorun that 
he became paralysed in both his legs. On the other hand the 
nature of the charms in the King's apartment had been made known 
to Gaha, who now bent all his energies to extinguish the ever- 
burning lamp. Its effect was so great that all who approached 
that apartment instantly dropped down dead. All the " medicine- 
men " in the kingdom were summoned by Gahk but none succeeded, 
and it cost many their lives. At last an Agberi man appeared, 
who sacrificed the life of his slave in order to gain the honour, 
nor did he survive it himself. In this service the Agberi tribes 
gained the pre-eminence over others of the same craft, and became 
friends of the Basorun. And thus the King died. 

But from this time the power of Gahk began to decline, old age 
set in, and impaired his strength of body and mind. His wives 
began to desert his harem, but some faithful domestics stood by 
him and they concealed from the general public the fact of his being 
lame. The door opening to the audience chamber was always 
kept shut whilst the King and the other noblemen were in waiting 
every morning to pay their respects to him. The opening and 
closing of the doors of the inner apartments announce the approach 
of his supernal highness. He crawled on all fours, and was usually 


seated before the door of the audience chamber was sUd back, 
so that he was never seen on the move ; but in order to inspire 
dread, his drummer used to beat " Iba kanbo, irin ija ni nrin." 
His Highness comes majestic, striding as one spoiling for a fight. 

§ 5. Abiodun alias Adegolu 

Abiodun, whose peaceful reign has passed into a proverb was 
described as a tall and slender prince, of a very dark complexion, 
a comely person, of dignified manners, and altogether fit to wear 
a crown. He also was raised to the throne by the order and 
influence of the Basorun. 

The young King was wise and prudent, and at first made no 
attempt at any opposition to the powerful Basorun. He went 
regularly every morning to pay him his respects, and invariably, 
received his presents of 10 heads of cowiies (which as a matter of 
fact, never exceeded 6 heads, not with the knowledge of the 
Basorun however, but by the action of the attendants). 

This state of things continued for many j^ears so much so that 
even the Basorun himself was becoming tired of this abject 
submission, and wanted but a decent pretext for which he might 
kill him, just for a change ! This man of blood was often heard 
to say " Who taught this King to be so wise ? These daily presents 
are getting to be too heavy a charge on my exchequer now." 
All power was in his hands and so were the responsibilities. His 
lust for power drained his exchequer, for his sons lording it all 
over the country deprived him of the revenues which might have 
come to him. 

That he was in great straits for money seemed evident from the 
fact that he requested his " medicine men " to make him charms 
to get him plenty of cowries. " Of all that constitutes v/ealth 
or power," said he, " I have, save money (cowries) enough to 
support my position." 

One of his " medicine men " assured him that he can make 
him a soap to wash with, and before sunset, his wish will be 
realized. He made the soap, and His Supernal Highness used it 
according to directions, and strange to say, it took effect, but in a 
way no one anticipated. Whatever the cause was due to, nobody 
knew, but fire broke out in the Basorun's house that afternoon, 
and all efforts to extinguish it failed, and so the palace was burnt 
to the ground. Owing to His Highness' influence and power, 
and the dread all had of him, every rank and station, from the 
AlAfin downwaids now vied to be the foremost in contributing to 
repair his losses, 10, 15, 20 bags of cowries came in from all quarters. 


The heads of the different wards of the city, the Modade, Molkbi, 
Nsise-og\in, Ntetu, T'onse-Awo, Aremu, Ita-Ologbo, Ajofk, 
and the Ogede quarters, all brought presents in cowries. 

Then the provincial kings and chiefs from the Onikoyi down- 
wards brought building materials, and also their own contributions 
in cowries, which greatly augmented his store. The Basgrun 
then asked the " medicine mam " " Is this the way you promised 
to get me cowries ? " He replied, " Yes, your Highness ; by what 
other means could you have amassed such an abundance in so 
short a time ? " 

But the Basorun was still thirsting for the blood of the AlAfin, 
and he was never so wise in his dealings with him, till at length, 
King Abiodun took a bold step, upon which he had devoted no 
little consideration. Having given orders to his courtiers and his 
wives privately to report to the Basorun that he was suffering from 
indisposition he left Oyo privately in the night for a town called 
Akala to his namesake Adegolu the powerful chief of that place. 
Being in disguise, he was not recognised by the Bale's wife, who 
told him her husband had gone to his farm. The feigned poor 
stranger asked the lady kindly to fetch him home in haste, as 
he had an important message for him. The kind hostess did so, 
and Chief Adegolu came home immediately, wondering what the 
message could be. 

" Who are you ? Where from ? And what is your message ? " 
\\eie the eager questions the Bale put to the sti anger. " I want 
a private interview " was the reply. Both of them retired to a 
convenient place, and the Bale was startled, and was scarcely 
himself when he heard from this humble stranger " I am your 
namesake Adegolu the AlAfin of Qyo." It was with some difficulty 
he could restrain the Bale from doing homage there and then with 
earth on his head, etc. " No, no," said the King, " another time 
will do for that. I am come to confer with you upon the present 
crisis, how to rid the throne of Oyo of the great usurper, the King 
maker and King destroyer. You know very well, that in all the 
6,600 towns and villages of the Yoruba kingdom, Gaha and his 
sons have the dominant rule." 

After conference. Chief Adegolu went with the stranger to rhe 
powerful Kakanfo (Field Marshal) Oyabi at Ajase ; here the plot 
was matared, of a strong and secret combination against the 
Basgrun and his sons. This was communicated by swift posts 
to all the principal kings and chiefs in the country, and it was 
arranged that on a fixed day, they should all rise and destroy all 
Gahci's children. 

The arrangement being complete King Adegolu returned home 


as he came out ; and next morning paid his respects to the 
Basorun as before. 

At the day appointed, the whole country rose up against Gahk's 
children, and butchered them to pieces ; and in order to exter- 
minate the seed in toto, those of their wives who were enceinte 
were ripped open, and the embryo chopped in pieces ! 

The whole army of the country headed by Oyabi, and Adegolu 
now marched for Oyo according to the secret arrangement, and the 
Oyo chiefs with the AlAfin opened the gates to them. 

Gahk's people single-handed were preparing to resist, but it 
was evident that his time was come and nothing could stop the 
inevitable and fatal end. Gahk summoned his relatives together, 
and handed to them a bundle of here grass, well tied, and asked 
them to break it ; when all had tried and failed, he had it loosed, 
handing round a few blades to each ; that was easily crunched ; 
then said he to them " Combined we shall stand, but if disunited 
we shall be broken to pieces like the blades of ber^ in your hands." 
But his brother Olubii who might have offered the stoutest 
resistance, had been won over by the Oyo chiefs, who promised 
him his brother's title when all shall have been over ; but this 
turned out to be a ruse, devised to weaken theBasorun's resistance, 
for Olubu never escaped the fate of all Gahk's people, but was 
butchered in the general massacre of the great man's adherents 
and relatives. To the last, Olaotan, Gahi's eldest son, stood by his 
father. The troops from the country poured in from all quarters 
and were joined by those of the city, all equally tired of 
the iron rule of Gahk and of the enormities being perpetrated by 
his children. His palace was surrounded, and attempts were 
made to beat down the walls thereof ; but they were heroically 
defended by his trusty domestics, and the few faithful adherents. 

Gahk in vain tried to transform himself into an elephant as 
of yore. He ordered four mortars to be placed in position for the 
fore and hind legs, and two pestles for the tusks ; old and feeble 
and lame, he could not even help himself up the mortars, and when 
helped to them, his trembling limbs could not support his body 
weight : his incantations proved a failure. At the sight of this 
failure Olaotan groaned with disappointment and said, " Father, 
have I not always said it were better you should secure a charm 
for ensuring perpetual youth ? It was because I was strongly 
convinced that these charms will be of Uttle avail to you, when old 
age has set in." 

From the walls and from the roofs of his palace, the Basgrun's 
men kept the army of the Kakanfo at bay. A sharp shooter in 
particular did havoc amongst them ; but a certain young man. 


bold and astute, observing this, ran close to the wall at some 
distance from the spot where he was, and walked along so close 
under it right on to the spot, that he was not seen from above or 
within, and as soon as the marksman put his head out again for 
another shot, he grasped and dragged him down, and immediately 
the men rushed forward and beat down the wall. The house was 
immediately fired, and all the domestics found within were put 
to the sword. The Basorun and Gbagi a faithful and favourite 
Ilari were taken aUve and brought before the King. He was 
soon on his chair of state with all insignia of royalty in full display 
about him, and the fallen minister made to prostrate at a distance 
before him, under a hot burning sun. The old man pleaded for 
his life, and even asked to be degraded and made the keeper of 
His Majesty's poultry yard, but it was felt that no quarters could 
be granted to him now. Being bulky in size, the ground under him 
where he lay prostrate under the mid-day sun became saturated 
with the profuse perspiration oozing from him. He neither deserved 
nor- received pity of any one. There were great rejoicings in the 
city and in the King's palace, and especially among the King's 

So great were the indignities and contempt this fallen minister 
was subjected to, that even children could approach him now 
and pull at a pedunculated tumour in his forehead, hanging down 
his face, which the fear and dread of him did not allow people to 
notice before, for who could approach so near as to gaze on him ? 
But the fate awaiting him was of greater concern to him now, than 
to take notice of these trifling jests. 

By the order of the AlAfin, the posts of his house and everything 
that could be used as firewood, which had escaped the burning, 
were brought together and piled as a stake ; pots of palm oil, 
nut oil, and shea butter were poured on it, and set ahght ; he was 
then approached by a menial saying in mockery " Master, the fire 
is alight, will you not warm yourself a bit in such a weather as 
this ? " Then he was lifted up to the top of the stake and made 
secure, together with Gbagi, his faithful Ilari. 

His fate has been a lesson to all usurpers and abusers of power. 
It has passed into a proverb " Bi o I'aiya Osika, bi o ri iku Gahk, 
yio so otitg. If you have the heart of a cruel man, take note of 
Gaha's death and be true." 

A one day bebe i.e. a public holiday with the freedom of a 
Bebe (vide p. 163) was proclaimed, after which Qyabi the Kakanfo 
returned home with the thanks and good wishes of the King and 

Abiodun now commenced the work of reformation beginning 


from the capital. In order to make himself secure on the throne, 
he suppressed or executed all those known or suspected to have 
been Gahk's friends secretly, and who might raise an insurrection 
against him, for Gaha was not without friends even among the 
chiefs, such as the Esiele, the Sakin, and the Sahadow^. 

From this time commenced that period of peace and prosperity 
for which King Abiod UN's reign was famous. Tributes poured into 
Oyo from the remote states and from Dahomey, agriculture and 
commerce flourished, and the people to the remotest part of the 
kingdom were so far happy and contented. 

The Kakanfo Qyabi did not live long to enjoy the peace he was 
so instrumental in effecting ; two years later, the AlAfin invited 
him to Oyo in order to bestow on him special honours, and marks 
of favour in recognition of his services to King and country, but 
unfortunately, his health was in a precarious condition, and in 
obeying the commands of his sovereign, he died on his way to 

§ 6. Abiodun's Peaceful Reign 

King Abiod UN had a long and prosperous reign. He was 
said to have been the father of 660 children ! The firstborn 
Agunpopo was said to have been the issue of an ilUcit intercourse 
with one of his father's wives, during the father's lifetime : hence 
the Oyo citizens refused to have him as the Argmg (Crown Prince). 
Ige Gbengberu his legitimate firstborn was accepted for that title, 
but he \yas of a delicate constitution, and died prematurely ; the 
office of Aremo now devolved upon the next prince Adesina. 

Wlien Abiod UN was fully established on the throne he found out 
that a Mohammedan had hidden one of Gahk's childien for about 
40 years^ ! The King not only graciously spared the young man, 
but also amply rewarded his preserver for his generous act, and 
confirmed his goodwill by giving one of his daughters to the 
Moslem for wife ; " for surely," said the King, " you would have 
done the same for myself also." 

Towards the latter part of the King's reign, certain of the 
Popo tribes had a quarrel among themselves, and two of their 
kings came to Oyo with a large retinue of about 4,000 people 
for an appeal. They were detained for 3 years without their 
case being heard, and in the end they were informed that they 
were no more to return to their own country, but kept as the 

^ The Yorubas always exaggerate their time period by a bad 
method of calculation. If, for instance, a child is born 5 days 
before the new moon appears, he is then 2 months old, and at the 
next new moon he is 3 months, when in reaUty he is only a month 
and some days. So also is the calculation for years. 


King's body guard under the command of his son Agunpopo 
whom the Oyo citizens insisted upon reckoning among his 
brotherstheOlusami, Atingisi.andlyajinforthereasonstated above. 

One act of revenge marred this distinguished sovereign's 
reputation. Long before his accession, he was a trader in potash. 
He once had a quarrel at Ijaye with the Bale's son but the Bale, 
out of deference to his high birth interposed and sharply repri- 
manded his son. Upon his accession he avenged the alleged insult by 
ordering the destruction of the town. Ijaye was then an Egba town. 

This fact is noted because this was the first time Ijaye was taken, 
a town which was destined hereafter to play a notable part in 
Yoruba history. His other wars were against the Popos every 
other year. They were completely subdued. 

The Crown Prince Adesina turned out to be a very vain and 
extravagant young man, weak in character, yielding to flattery. 
E.g., it was said that some of his followers used to say to him 
" Prince, you can give me lo heads of cowries now (equivalent 
to ;£io in those days), if only you wish ; why, you have only to 
say the word and it would be done ; come now, why be reluctant 
about it ? It is only to speak, etc." The Prince would yield, and 
order the money to be given. 

King Abiodun attained to a good old age, full of honours, having 
subdued all his enemies. The Aremo had hoped to succeed his 
father. Not satisfied with the high honour and unrestricted 
liberty he was enjoying, he was too eager to occupy the throne, 
and so he hastened his father's death by poison. 

The end of this reign marked an important epoch in Yoruba 
history. With the death of Abiodun ended the universal and 
despotic rule of the Alafins of Oyo in the Yoruba country. He was 
the last of the Kings that held the different parts of the Kingdom 
together in one universal sway and with him ended the tranquility 
and prosperity of the Yoruba country. The revolution ensued, 
and the tribal independence, with the loss to Yoruba of the Tapa 
and Bariba, and Dahomey provinces, and the Popos later on, 
which has continued to our own day. In a word, with Abiodun 
ended the unity of the Yoruba kingdom. 

Kangidi succeeded Gahk as the Basorun of this reign. 

In which revolutionary wars devastated the whole of Yoruba- 
land, ending in the Fulani usurpation and tribal independence. 
It embraced a period of the reigns of five Kings, from the 
accession of Aole to the death of Oluewu, the last of the Kings, 
who reigned at the ancient Oyo. 

Chapter VI. 


None of Abiodun's numerous children succeeded him on the throne. 
Aol^, a tall and handsome . Prince, a cousin of the late King was 
elected in his stead. But unfortunately, his reign was a very 
unhappy one ; it marked the commencement of the decline of 
the nation until it terminated in the tragic, end of the fifth 
King after him. The cup of iniquity of the nation was full ; 
cruelty, usurpation, and treachery were rife, especially in the 
capital ; and the provinces were groaning under the yoke of 
oppression. Confiscation and slavery for the slightest offence 
became matters of daily occurrence, and the tyranny, exactions, 
and lawlessness of the Princes and other members of the royal 
family, were simply insupportable. Oaths were no more taken 
in the name of the gods, who were now considered too lenient 
and indifferent ; but rather in the name of the King who was 
more dreaded. " Idk Oba ni yio je mi " (may the King's sword 
destroy me) was the new form of oath ! Aole was unfoitunately 
saddled with the ill fate of the nation, as the following ditty 
commonly sung would show : — 

" Laiye Abiodun I'afi igba won 'wo 
Laiye Aol^ I'adi adikal^." 

(In Abiodun's reign money we weighed by bushels. [Lit. with 
calabashes.] In Aole's reign, we packed up to flee). 

But there was nothing more in his actions than in those of his 
predecessors to warrant this saying, on the contrary, he was 
probably too weak and mild for the times. The nation was ripe 
for judgment, and the impending wrath of God was about to fall 
upon it ; hence trouble from every quarter, one after another. 

On the King's accession, according to custom when the time 
came for him to send out his first expedition, he was asked who 
was his enemy, that they should fight him. He named the Bale 
of Apomu, and hence Apomu was doomed. 

The alleged cause of offence will clearly show how much of 
corruption there was at the fountain head in those days. 

Apomu was the market town where Oygs, Ifes, Owus, and 
Ijgbus met for trade. It was situated in Ife territory, and m the 

1 88 


border of the Olowu's dominion. Raiding and man-stealing were 
rife at those times. Oyos particularly were in greater danger, 
as they came from afar. During the last reign several Oyos were 
stolen and sold here, and hence King Abiqdun sent orders to both 
the Olowu and the Owoni of Ife to keep a strict watch and prevent 
the recurrence of these practices. The Owoni and the Olowu in 
turn sent strict orders to the Bale of Apomu to be on the watch, 
and arrest any offender. 

Aole who was then a private man used to trade in these parts 
with a friend who was also his attendant ; and on one occasion, 
he bartered away his friend for merchandise ! So faithless and 
heartless were the princes in those days. The Ijebus were actually 
taking him away when it was reported to the Bale of Apomu that 
an Oyg man was being sold away. Fortunately for the man 
by the prompt action of the Bale he was rescued at a certain spot 
named Apata Odaju (the rock of the heartless), perhaps so named 
from this circumstance, and brought before the Bale. Investig- 
ation soon showed who the slave-dealer was ; but as Aol^ was an 
Akeyo (Prince) and could not more severely be dealt with, in 
order that justice may not miscarry, he was ordered by the 
Bale to be severely flogged. This was the reason why Aole now 
named the Bale of Apomu as his enemy. 

When the Bale of Apomu heard that war was declared against 
his town on his account he took refuge in the court of the Ow5ni 
of Ife his over-lord, and whose orders he had obeyed. But as 
the offence was against the Suzerain, even the Ow6ni could not 
save him ; so this faithful chief, in order to save his town and his 
people from destruction, committed suicide, and his head was cut 
off and sent to Oyo to appease the offended monarch ! 

But an expedition must in any case be sent out, the King was, 
therefore, approached again and asked to name his enemy. But 
he replied, " My enemy is too formidable for me." Being pressed, 
he named the powerful chief Afonja the Kakanfo residing at Ilorin 
with great reluctance, as he foresaw evil ahead. 

§ 2. The King's Enemies 

After the death of the Kakanfo Oyabi, Afonja of Ilorin demanded 
the title ; but as a Prince (through the mother) the title was below 
his rank, for the Kakanfo ranks after the Basorun, but being the 
highest mihtary title, it suited his restless nature best, and so he 
obtained it, almost by force. 

But King Aole was unwilhng to initiate any civil war, and 
refused to take any action against Afonja after he had granted 
him the title. 


Hitherto, Afgnja alone was his enemy, the other chiefs were 
as yet loyal to him, but circumstances occurred, one after the other 
which created a disaffection between him and theBasorun and the 
other chiefs, fanning into a flame the destructive fire already 
smouldering in its embers. 

The cause of quarrel between the King and Asamu theBasorun 
was this : — 

One Alaja-eta a Hausa trader at Oyo was plundered of his 
goods, under the pretext that he was bringing bad charms into 
the city. Among his confiscated goods was his Koran which he 
prized more than all his other stolen property. He appealed to 
the King, and he, from a sense of justice ordered that all his goods 
be restored to him. All but the Koran were accordingly restored. 
The Hausa again appealed to the King for this his most valued 
treasure ; the King insisted that search should be made and the 
lost Koran be restored. 

The Basorun in whose possession it probably was, or who 
at any rate knew where it could be found, refused to restore it 
and told the King it could not be found ! His Majesty felt this 
keenly as an insult to his dignity ; he was heard to say " Is it 
come to this that my commands cannot be obeyed in my own 
capital ? Must it be said that I failed to redress the grievance 
of a stranger in my town ? That he appealed to me in vain ? " 
Turning to the Basorun and pointing upwards he said, " Very 
well then, if you cannot find it my father (meaning the deified 
Sango) will find the Koran for me." 

As the god Sango is reputed to take vengeance on thieves and 
liars by burning their houses, so the next day, when lightning 
struck the Basgrun's house, great was his rage against the King 
for being instrumental in convicting him of theft and lying ! 

The ceremony of appeasing the god by the devotees, entailed 
heavy expenses on the Basgrun who, had it been another man's 
house might have gone shares with the Alafin in the fines imposed 
upon the sufferers. He knew where the trouble came from, for 
he noted the King's words " My father will find it for me." In 
this way be became the King's enemy. 

Another circumstance occurred which added the Ow6ta one of 
the 5sgs to the list of the King's enemies. 

One Jankalawa who had offended the late King and who had 
escaped to the Bariba country when he sought to kill him, now 
returned after the King's death and was flaunting about the streets 
of OYg under the protection of Lafianu the Owota. The late 
King's wives were angry at this and complained to Aole against 
Jankalawa. Said they " You have inherited our late husband's 


wives, his treasures, slaves and his throne. Why nut make 
his cause your cause and his enemies yours as well ? Why do you 
allow this Jankalawa to stalk so defiantly about the streets of 

By thus appealing to him from day to day, he yielded to their 
entreaties and remonstrances, and ordered the arrest and subse- 
quent execution of Jankalawa. 

The Owota's pride was wounded, because he was not respected 
by the King, in that one known to be under his protection should 
be so summarily dealt with. Thus the Bagorun and the Kakanfo 
found an accomplice in the powerful Owota. A conspiracy was 
formed but not being ripe for execution, they awaited a 
favourable opportunity. 

At length the time arrived when an expedition must be sent 
out, and the King was again asked "Who is your Majest3''s enemy?" 
He replied, " I have told you that my enemy is too formidable 
for me, and besides we are the same kith and kin." However, he 
advised that as the last campaign ended at Gbeji, the war should 
be prosecuted from that place. 

But in order to gain their object in view, viz., the removal 
of the Kakanfo, the King's counsellors advised that the Kakanfo 
and the army should be sent against Iwere, a place fortified by 
nature and by art, and impregnable to the simple weapons of 
those days, and as the Kakanfo by the oaths of his office must 
either conquer within three months or die, and Iwere is impreg- 
nable, he will have no other alternative, but as in honour 
bound to make away with himself. 

It was, however, arranged that he should not be foiewamed, 
but decoyed as it were to that place until he found himself at the 
foot of the hill on which Iwere was built ; hence it was given out 
that war was declared against Gbeji. 

But the royal party leading the army received private instruc- 
tions to lead the army to Iwere and when there to inform the 
Kakanfo that that was the place he was sent against. 

But private intelligence had reached the Kakanfo at Ilorin, 
of all the plots and intrigues going on in the capital. However, 
he with his accomphces in the city deferred the execution of their 
design till after their arrival at the seat of war. 

The army at length stood before Iwere and the Royal party, 
consisting of the King's brother, the Eunuchs, and the principal 
slaves, and their men, pointing to it said " This is the town to be 
taken by the order of the AlAfin." 

The time was now come for the mutiny to break out. The 
Basorun and the Owota at the head of the troops from the city, 


the Onikoyi and the Kakanfo leading those from the provinces 
now alleged as a pretext for the mutiny that " If the King had not 
aimed at our destruction, he would not have ordered us to this 
impregnable town. And besides, is not this the maternal town of 
King AjAGBO ? Are there not Kobis in the Queen Mother's palace 
there ? " 

The watchword was now given " O Ya " (now is the time) and 
so the whole army turned their swords upon the royal party and 
massacred them ! Chief Qpele of Gbogun in particular was famous 
as a swordsman ; he made himself notorious on that occasion, 
and took to himself a name " A ri agada pa aburo Oba " (one who 
has a blade for slaying the King's brother). 

The siege was immediately raised, and the whole army stood 
before the city for forty and two days. The King sent word to 
say if they have returned from the expedition, whether successful 
or unsuccessful, let them come in for an interview. The insurgent 
chiefs sent word back to say that the royal party had offended them 
and that the result had proved unfortunate. " Very well," Sciid 
the King, " in any case, come in for an interview." Several weeks 
passed, and they were still encamped before Oyo irresolute as to 
what they should do next. At last an empty covered calabash 
was sent to the King — for his head ! A plain indication that he 
was rejected. He had suspected this all along and was not unpre- 
pared for it. There being no alternative His Majesty set his house 
in order; but before he committed suicide, he stepped out into the 
palace quadrangle with face stern and resolute, carrying in his hands 
an earthenware dish and three arrows. He shot one to the North, 
one to the South, and one to the West uttering those ever-memor- 
able imprecations, " My curse be on ye for your disloyalty and 
disobedience, so let your children disobey you. If you send them 
on an errand, let them never return to bring you word again. 
To all the points I shot my arrows will ye be carried as slaves. 
My curse will carry you to the sea and beyond the seas, slaVes will 
rule over you, and you their masters will become slaves." 

With this he raised and dashed the earthenware dish on the 
ground smashing it into pieces, saying " Igba la isg a ki isg awo, 
beheni ki org mi o se to ! to ! " (a broken calabash can be mended, 
but not a broken dish ; so let my words be — irrevocable !) 

He then took poison and died, after which the camp was broken 
up, and each of the chiefs repaired to his own place. 

Thus ended an unhappy reign of about seven years, and Prince 
Adebg succeeded him on the throne. 

Asamu Agba-o lekan was the Basgrun of this reign. 

the revolution 193 

§ 3. The Rebellion of the Oyo Chiefs 

The death ot the late King was all that the rebel chiefs demanded, 
after which, the army entered the city, pillaged the palace and then 
dispersed each to his own place. From this time the spirit of 
rebelHon and independence began to spread throughout the king- 
dom. Adebo was placed on the throne with the nominal title of 
King, but without the authority and power of a King. It was his 
misfortune to have come to the throne at such a time, and he held 
the sceptre for only 130 days. 

Afonja the Kakanfo of Ilorin and Opele the Bale of Gbogun 
were the first to proclaim their independence, other chiefs soon 
followed their examples. This was the commencement of the 
break-up of the unity of the Yoruba kingdom, and the beginning 
of the tribal independence. Tribute was no longer paid to the 
King. The King's messengers and Ilaris no longer carried that 
dread as before, nor were they allowed to oppress people or enrich 
themselves with their goods as before. 

As the King's authority waned, so also the respect and deference 
hitherto paid to the citizens of the capital ceased ; they were 
even treated disrespectfully and became the subjects of vulgar 
songs all over the country, a thing unheard of before ! Law and 
order were subverted, might triumphed over right, and the 
powerful chieftains turned their arms towards subverting town 
after town in the kingdom in order to increase their own wealth 
and power. Chief Opele of Gbogun took Dofian and Igbo-Owu; 
he besieged Gboho but fell in that place, being shot with an arrow 
by the brave defenders. 

Opele was the only powerful chief Afonja respected and having 
now no rival he resolved upon a scheme to reduce the provinces 
under his own sway, leaving the capital severely alone in complete 
isolation. He made no attempt on Oyo, had no aspiration after 
the throne knowing that was impossible of attainment ; it was 
sufficient tor him that the King was powerless to check his ambition. 
In order to strengthen his hands in the enterprise he was about to 
undertake, he invited a Fulah Moslem Priest named Alimi to 
Ilorin to act as his priest. Alimi in responding to his call came 
with his Hausa slaves and made Ilorin his home. These Hausa 
slaves Afonja found to be useful as soldiers. He also invited to 
Ilorin a rich and powerful Yoruba friend at Kurwo named 
Solagberu, who quartered himself at the outskirts of the town. 

All the Hausa slaves in the adjacent towns hitherto employed 
as barbers, rope-makers, and cowherds, now deserted their 
masters and flocked to Ilorin under the standard of Afonja the 
Kakanfo, and were protected against their masters. 


Under Solagberu's standard also flocked Mohammedans from 
Gbanda, Kobayi, Agoho, Kuwo, and Kobe. All in his quarter 
being Moslems, he named that part of the town Oke S una, i.e., 
the quarter of the faithful. They held themselves separate not 
only from the pagans, but also from the Fulahs or Fulanis their 

From this time beg?in the Jehad or religious war in the Yoruba 
country. Those who were enlisted as soldiers called themselves 
Jama (a Hausa word for the rank and file, as distinguished from 
the leaders). The mark of distinction between themselves and 
others was the Kende, two large iron rings one on the thumb, 
the other on the 3rd or 4th finger of the left hand ; with this they 
welcome each other, striking the rings against each other to produce 
a sound. This io the sign of brotherhood ; hence they often say 
'■ O re kende si mi, okan na ni wa," (he welcomed me with the 
Kende, we both are one). 

The operations of the Jamas were directed against the Igbdna 
tribe. The only towns of Yoruba proper destroyed were amongst 
the Ibolos viz., Iresk, Ejigbo, and Ilobu. The reason why these 
towns were destroyed we shall notice afterwards. 

§ 4. The Rising of Ojo Agunbambaru 

Ojo surnamed Agunbambaru was one of the surviving sons of 
the renowned Basorun Gahk. He had escaped to the Bariba 
country at the general massacre of Gahk's children and relatives 
in the reign of King Abigdun. Hearing of the present state of 
the country, he thought there could never be a more favourable 
opportunity for him both to avenge his father's death, and also 
to obtain his title without opposition. 

He returned from the Bariba country with an immense army, 
entered Qyo, and under the pretext of espousing the King's cause, 
he put to death indiscriminately most of the influential citizens 
who were named as Afonja's friends and allies. The Owota was 
the first victim of his ambition and revenge. On the whole, about 
100 chiefs were despatched, who were either his father's enemies, 
or who might have opposed him -in his main object. 

He now set off for Ilgrin to measure strength with Afgnja the 
powerful Kakanfo, whose father was one of those who swelled 
Oyabi's army for the overthrow of his father the Basorun Gahk, 
and who had succeeded the same Oyabi in his title as Kakanfo, 
These were his grievances against Afgnja ; but besides these, 
Afgnja was the only person in the land after Op§le of Gbogun, 
who might have opposed him in his designs. 

If Ojo had acted with prudence, he might have succeeded without 


the slightest doubt ; but his indiscriminate slaughter of the Oyo 
chiefs and others in his track, and his threats against the Onikoyi, 
tended to weaken his own strength on the outset. Fire and the 
sword marked his path to Ilorin, and so great was the dread of him, 
that such towns as Ogidi, Ogele and others, were deserted at his 

Adegun the Onikoyi being one of Afonja's secret friends, was on 
his hst for destruction but he was reserved till after the war. Both 
were kept informed of all Ojo's movements, policy, and designs 
by the Oyo people who followed him trembhng, not really as 
friends, but rather as traitors, their minds having been prejudiced 
against him, on account of his excesses, and a secret combination 
was formed between them and the Onikoyi, to desert Ojo at the 
most ciitical moment. 

Ojo's army was further swelled by recruits from all the Yoruba 
towns who feared his vengeance should victoiy crown his efforts 
without their help ; and even the Onikoyi who knew himself to 
be a marked man, declared for him and swelled his army. 

Afonja met this large army a great way off but he was defeated 
on three successive engagements. His army being completely 
routed he fled precipitately to Ilorin to fortify the town against 
the approach of the conqueror. Ilorin had not been walled, and 
there was no time to think of doing so now, so he had to extemporise 
fortifications, erecting stockades with the locust and shea-butter 

Ilorin was soon besieged and was nearly taken, as Afgnja's 
courage was faiUng from repeated reverses, when private messages 
from the enemy's camp were sent to encoiurage him to hold out 
a Uttle longer. 

At last, the final decisive battle was to be fought, Afonja and 
his army were hard pressed on every side, being shut up within 
their forts, and the town was on the point of being taken when 
Adegun the Onikoyi and his accomplices suddenly gave way, 
in the heat of the battle, and the great conqueror irretrievably 
lost the day ! 

The traitors fled away in confusion, but Ojo and his trusty 
Bariba troops retreated orderly ; the Kakanfo could not follow up 
the victory by pursuing him from the dread he had of the Baribas, 
who were renowned for being good archers, and for their poisoned 
arrows. Ojo made good his escape with the remnant of his army. 
Being thus deserted by those whose cause he professed to espouse, 
Agunbambaru considered himself unsafe among them, and there- 
fore returned to the Bariba country with the wreck of his army 
watching for another favourable opportunity. 


After the fall of Opele of Gbogun, King Adebo declared war 
against the town of (Gbogun, but he died at home during the 
progress of the siege. His reign was short and specially marked 
by troubles. The people now longed for peace, hence their 
pathetic songs . — 

" A pete, a pero, a fi Adebo joba, 
Abiodun, pada wa joba o ! " 

(With deliberation, and thought we made Adebg King, O 
Abiodun, do thou return to reign !) 
Asamu was also the Basorun of this reign. 

§ 5. Maku 

Afonja by new conquests and especially by his recent victory 
over Ojo became mightier still. The Igb6nas having already been 
subjugated, he now proceeded to punish Iresa for being in league 
with Ojo, because no private message came to him from that place 
during the war. 

Prince Maku ascended the throne without Afonja's being con- 
sulted, and therefore he never sent any congratulations, nor 
repaired to Oyo to do homage as usual. A deputation was therefore 
sent to inform him that " The New Moon has appeared," meaning 
a new King has ascended the throne ; and he sent back this 
arrogant reply " Let that New Moon speedily set." 

Maku's reign was very short, not exceeding two months (or 
three moons as Yorubas reckoned it). 

He declared war against Iworo, and took the field in person. He 
suffered a defeat and retreated to I wo (in the Metropolitan district). 
From shame he did not return to Oyo till the Oyo Mesi sent word 
to him that he should not think of removing the seat of government 
to I wo, or else why did he remain there ? His Majesty thereupon 
returned to the capital, and then he was poUtely told that rio Yoruba 
King must survive a defeat. He thereupon committed suicide. 

The Bagorun of this reign was the same Asamu. 

Chapter VII 


§ I. The Spread of Anarchy and Fall of Afonja 

An interregnum folloNved the last reign but for how long, it is 
not known ; after which Majotu was placed on the throne. The 
whole country was at this time in the greatest disorder, wars and 
rumours of war being the order of the day. The tocsin of war 
resounded from every quarter, and the new King found himself 
incapable of coping with the situation. 

The Epos, imitating the Kakanfo at Ilorin organized a military 
band which they called Ogo Were (i.e. the Jackals) at the head of 
which was the Aresa but with what object in view, it was not 
known. The Kakanfo received the news with mixed feelings 
of jealousy and suspicion ; he sent and enquire.d of Toyeje the 
Bale of Ogbomoso his Otun i.e. commander of his right, what he 
understood by that movement. Toyeje could not say. War was 
in consequence declared against the Epcs, and several towns in 
that province were taken, only Ogbahagbkha and Iwo amongst 
the principal towns escaped. Ilobu and Ejigbo amongst the 
Ibglos were also taken, and the Ogo Were suppressed. 

Afonja was now the sole power in the kingdom ; the King and 
the capital were left to manage their own affairs by themselves. 

The Jamas were increasing in number and in rapacity, to the 
utter distress and ruin of the country. When there was no war 
in hand they usually scattered themselves all over the land plunder- 
ing the people and committing outrages. They would enter any 
house, make it their headquarters, from which they would pillage 
the neighbourhood and surrounding districts. They fed upon the 
cattle of the house and led the rest away at their leisure and 

Knowing the consequences to themselves and to the town if 
they were to attack these marauders, the country folk became 
rather disinclined to rear up any cattle or poultry to feed these 
thieves ; every one helped himself and family to whatever remained 
of their livestock, so that at one time there was not a single livestock 
to be found in country towns. 

To further illustrate the gross licences of these Jamas, slaves 
who had deserted their masters often returned to the same town, 
and even to the very house as a Jama, making their former 



master's house their headquarters for their rapine : masters who 
were kind to them formerly were now repaid by protection against 
the rapacities of their comrades ; unkind ones were now treated 
with heartless revenge. These fellows were not regarded now as 
slaves bat as the Kakanfo's servants. 

Thoughtful men were now apprehensive of the evils to the nation 
which the unrestrained licences of these Jamas portended, but no 
one was bold enough to remonstrate with the Kakanfo, or even to 
appeal to him against their rapacities. Fagbohun the chief of 
Jabata alone had the courage to do so by virtue of his office as 
the commander of the left wing of the Kakanfo's arm}-, and he 
incurred his displeasure for his boldness. 

In order to get Fagbohun into his grasp, Afonja summoned 
all the provincial Bales to him at Ilorin, but Fagbohun having 
got wind of his intention escaped back to his town. 

But Afonja perceived his error when it was too late. Haughty 
and passionate, his very egotism was the cause of his fall. Fortune 
had carried him to such a high pitch of glory, he thought his fall 
was impossible ; besides, he had unlimited confidence in his 
Jamas, and was not aware ot their growing disaffection and dis- 
loyalty towards himself. He thought he could put them down 
whenever he liked, and was sometimes very severe with any act of 
insubordination, openly threatening them with suppression and 
annihilation. This threat only served to increase their disaffection. 
Too late, he saw what Fagbohun had warned him against. He 
failed completely to check their ambition, rapine and lawlessness. 
His threats and warnings were not heeded. Long impunity had 
increased their boldness. 

At last, the Kakanfo was resolved to give effect to his threats 
and to disband the Jamas, but he miscalculated his own strength. 
By the death of his brother Agbonrin, and his head slave Lasipa 
he had lost his mainstay for these were men of power. He had 
offended all the powerful chiefs in the kingdom including his 
former friend and ally Solagberu of Oke Suna, and his priest 
AUmi by his high-handedness, lofty airs and haughty spirit. 

Fearing lest these Jamas should attack him suddenly if he were 
to delay their destruction, he sent a private message to the Onikoyi 
and other powerful chiefs in the country inviting them to make 
their appearance in Ilorin suddenly, and to assist him in 
annihilating these Jamas. 

But the secret was divulged to the Jamas, and they, losing 
no time, being headed by Alimi the priest, rose up against him 
before he could obtain help from abroad. Solagberu being a 
Yoruba, professed neutrality. The Kakanfo was closely besieged 


in his quarters, but he fought with his characteristic bravery. 
When he found himself overwhelmed by numbers, he despatched 
Bugare his head slave to solicit the aid of Solagberu ; but Solagberu 
treacherously detained him, saying, " Your Master has hitherto 
looked down upon us as his menials, and why does he now require 
our aid ? " This treachery, he lived to regret. The great Kakanfo 
was disappointed on all sides. As neither Bugare nor Solagberu 
made an appearance, he could not hold out till the Onikoyi's 
arrival ; he was compelled to fight within the walls of his house ; 
but when the house was set on fire, he rushed out again into the 
streets surrounded by his faithful few. The insurgents surrounded 
them, charged again and again, but could not break their ranks, 
Afonja himself in the midst of them was fighting most desperately, 
surrounded by the corpses of some of his faithful attendants. 
Seeing the day was lost, some of his followers became disheartened 
and deserted him., but the rest chose to die with him. He fell 
indeed like a hero. So covered was he with darts that his body 
was supported in an erect position upon the shafts of spears and 
arrows showered upon him. 

So much dread had his personality inspired that these treacher- 
ous Jamas whom he had so often led to victory could not believe 
he was really dead ; they continued to shower darts upon him 
long after he had ceased fighting. They were afraid to approach 
his body as if he would suddenly spring up and shake himself for 
the conflict afresh ; not till one of them, bolder than the rest 
cautiously went near and placed an arrow in his hand and they 
saw he could no longer grasp it, that they believed he was really 
dead ! His corpse was taken up and burnt to ashes. 

The crafty AUmi his treacherous friend took his helpless children 
and family under his own protection, a leging that it was a mis- 
understanding that led to the civil fight between himself and his 
old friend, in which the latter unhappily lost his life. His house 
was rebuilt, and the remnant of his people were permitted to occupy 
it, but the government of the town passed over to the conqueror. 
His family, however, are highly respected at Ilgrin to this day. 
Thus passed away one who will always be remembered in the 
annals of the Yoruba country as the leader of the revolution which 
ended in the dismemberment of the Yoruba country. 

The late Afonja was a native of Ilorin. The city was built by 
his great grandfather, Laderin, whose posterity bore rule in her in 
succession to the fourth generation. Laderin the founder, was 
succeeded by Pasin, his son, a valiant chiet who opposed the 
renowned Gaha when he was in the zenith of his glory. Fearing 
his rising power, Gahk drove him out of Ilorin and he escaped to 


Ol^. He sent an army after him there which reduced the town and 
Pasin was taken and slain. Alagbin the son of Pasin succeeded 
his father, and in turn handed the government to his vaUant son 
Afonja with whom the rule ended. 

Ilorin is sometimes spoken of as Afonja's Ilorin. This is because 
he was the most renowned of her rulers, and not only so, but 
also because it was he who made it into the large city it now is. 

There were several towns and villages around at no very great 
distance from Ilorin e.g. Kanla, Oke Suna, Ganma, Elehinjare, 
Idofian, Oke Oyi, Ibare, Igbon, Iresa etc. Most of them this 
restless warrior captured one by one and resettled them around 
Ilorin so as to make it into what it has become. The able-bodied 
men he enrolled among his soldiers, and several women and 
children he sold into slavery, in order to have wherewith to 
maintain and supply arms to his war boys. 

He was not actually of the royal family although often reckoned 
as such, but his mother was said to have been a home born slave 
of the palace, and he was brought up among the children of the 
royal family, hence the Ibamu facial mark across the face seen 
in his descendants to this day. 

Ilorin now passed into the hands of foreigners, the Fulanis 
who had been invited there as friends and allies. These being 
far more astute than the Yorubas, having studied their weak 
points and observed their misrule, planned to grasp the whole 
kingdom into their own hands by playing one chief against another 
and weakening the whole. Their more generous treatment of 
fallen foes and artful method of conciliating a power they could 
not openly crush, marked them out as a superior people in the art 
of government. 

§ 2. The First Attempt to Recover Ilorin from the Fulanis 

The Battle of Ogele 

The tragic end of Afonja the Kakanfo by the hands of his 
Jamas had long been anticipated by thoughtful men who depre- 
cated their formation, and had predicted the worst for the nation 
when slaves became masters. 

The death of the Kakanfo struck the whole nation with such 
awe and bewilderment that it took the people nearly a whole 
year to bring them to their right mind. Seeing that the fate of 
the whole nation was trembling in the balance as it were, all the 
people united to avenge the death of Afonja, while in the meantime, 
the crafty Fulani had been strengthening himself for the conflict. 
He had studied the Yorubas and knew how to circumvent them. 


Toyeje the Bale of Ogbomosg and commander of the late 
Kakanfo's right, was promoted to the post of Kakanfo, and the 
whole nation was united under his standard to expel the Fulanis 
from Ilorin. They encamped at a place called Ogele, where they 
were met by the Fulani horse aided by the powerful Yoruba 
Moslem Chief Solagberu of Oke Suna. Another fatal mistake of 

A sanguinary battle was fought in which the Fulanis were 
victorious. They routed the Yorubas and followed up their 
victory, which resulted in the desertion or destruction of a great 
many towns in the Ibolo province. The only important towns 
left in that part were Ofa, Igbona, Ilemona, Erin, and a few others. 

The refugees could only carry away such of their personal 
effects which could be snatched away in a hasty flight, as the 
Fulani horse kept hovering in their rear. They found temporary 
refuge in any walled town where a powerful chief happened to be, 
there, it may be, to await another siege by the conqueror. 

The distress caused by this calamity cannot be described. 
Aged people who could not be carried away were left to perish. 
The doleful lamentations of parents who had lost their children, 
and of thousands of widows and orphans were heartrending. 
Bereft of every thing, without money, or anything that could 
be converted into money in such hasty and sudden flight, they were 
reduced to abject misery and poverty among strangers, and could 
only support life by doing menial work by procuring firewood or 
leaves for sale and such like. A people who until recently lived 
in what for them was affluence and plenty, are now oppressed 
with want and misery brought about by the want of foresight, and 
the vaulting ambition of their rulers. 

§ 3. The Second Attempt to Expel the Fulanis and Recover 


The Mugbamugba War 

After a short respite the Yorubas again rallied and resolving 
to rid the country of these hordes of marauders the Jamas, made 
an alliance with Monjia, the King of Rabbah, that he may help 
them to extirpate the pests. The war took place somewhere 
between March and April at the time when the locust fruit was 
ripe for harvest. 

The country was already devastated by the late wars, many 
towns were left desolate, and consequently there were no farms for 
foraging. What food there was in the Ilorin farms were soon 
eaten up, and both the besiegers and the besieged were without 


provisions and had to live on the locust fruit (igba) . Hence the war 
was termed Mugbamugba. 

The Yorubas were again unsuccessful in this expedition. They 
had not yet learnt how to cope with cavalry and the Fulanis were 
expert horsemen. From successive defeats the Yorubas lost all 
courage, and victories one after another made the Ilorins more 
confident, so that in the open fields they gained easy victories over 
the Yorubas ; and when they were protected within walled towns 
they reduced them by long sieges and famine. 

On this occasion, the Ilorins attacked the alUes to advantage. 
They hid their horses in the rear of the allied armies and while 
a party of horsemen engaged them in front the main body of the 
cavalry suddenly bore down upon them from the rear and routed 
them. Monjia fled precipitately to his own country, leaving the 
Yorubas at the mercy of the victors. The Ilorins followed up their 
victory and swept away all the towns in the direction of ^ia, 
Erin, Igbona etc. The Olofa with Asegbe his favourite and wise 
Ilari escaped to Ikoyi. 

§ 4. The Battle of Pamo 

Alimi the Moslem priest, who was at the head of the foreigners 
at Ilorin died after the last war and was succeeded by his son 
Abudusalami, who became the first King, or Emir, of Ilorin. 
Ilorin now passes definitely into the hands of the Fulanis as rulers, 
and affords a home for the Gambaris (Hausas) from whom the 
Jamas were reciuited. 

The late Alimi was much respected at Ilorin from his arrival 
there as a mere priest. At fiist he had no intention of making 
Ilorin his home much less to embark upon a career of conquest ; 
and indeed when Afonja and his Jamas commenced their excesses 
he was prepared to return to his own country from disgust, but 
the eldeis of the Yorubas prayed him to stay and act as a check on 
Afonja for there was no one else to whom he would defer and there 
was no telling how far he would go without someone to put the 
fear of God into him. The Kakanfo and the people of Ilorin pre- 
vailed upon him to send for his family and make Ilorin his home. 

Alimi was a pure Fulani by birth and his wife also a Fulani 
lady. They lived together for a considerable time without any 
issue. The wife then consulted a Moslem priest as to her state of 
childlessness, and she was told to give out of her abundance to a 
distinguished Moslem priest a slave as an alms to the glory of 
of God, and she was sure to have children. 

Having considered this matter over, she came to the conclusion 
within herself that she knew of no distinguished Moslem priest 


greater than her own husband, and therefore she gave to her 
husband one of her maidens as " an alms to the glory of God." 

This maiden as Ahmi's secondary wife became the mother of 
Abudusalami and Shitta his two eldest sons. The Fulani lady 
herself subsequently gave birth to a son named Sumonu, who was 
nick-named Beribepo (one who cuts off head and post). Alimi 
afterwards took to himself a third wife by whom he also had a 
son, and, therefore at his death he left four sons to inherit his 
property. As will be seen below however, no advantage in the 
matter of government accrued to the son of the real wife (who was 
a pure white Fulani) above those of the slave wife who were 
coloured. Hence in the third generation, the chief rulers of Ilorin 
have become black. 

The power of the Fulanis was now very great, and they aimed 
at nothing short of the subversion of the whole Yoruba country, 
and the short sighted Yoruba war-chiefs were playing the game for 
them by their mutual jealousy of one another. One expedition 
followed after another and the result was the devastation and 
depopulation of the country. Far seeing men had predicted all 
this, if the various Yoruba families did not unite and expel the 
foreigners ; but jealousy and rivalry among the chiefs prevented 
unity of purpose. Allegiance was no longer paid to the King, not 
even in the capital. Intestine wars not only weakened the country, 
but offered it an easy prey to the common enemy. 

Thus Toyeje the Kakanfo at Ogbomosg had a difference with 
Adegun the Onikoyi which at length broke out into an open war, 
each of them being now independent, and neither would submit 
to the other. The Kakanfo formed an alliance with the Oluiwo 
of Iwo, the Timi of Ede and Solagberu of Ilorin, and besieged 
the Onikoyi in his city of Ikoyi. 

Solagberu had his own personal grievance to vent because the 
Onikoyi did not do homage to him or pay him tribute ; so he came 
with all the Ilorin forces at his command. Abudusalami the 
Emir alone remained at home. The combined forces encamped 
at a place called Pamo. The conflict was very fierce, and Ikoyi, 
hemmed in on all sides, was nearly taken, when Asegbe the Olofa's 
Ilari, who was then with his master, a refugee at Ikoyi, saved the 
city by wise and judicious measures. He told his master and 
it also came to the Onikoyi's hearing that if he could be allowed 
to use his wisdom without being forbidden or thwarted, he could 
save the city. The besieged who were prepared to agree to any 
terms in order to obtain peace accepted the offer, although 
reluctantly, as Asegbe kept his plans to himself. 

He sent a private messenger to Abudusalami the Emir of Ilgrin 


in the name of the Onikoja, that he was besieged in his city, 
for the sole reason that he declared himself for the Emir of Ilorin. 
The Emir again questioned the messenger " Is it true the Onikoyi 
declared for me? " " Quite true, your Majesty," was his reply. 
" Then the siege must be raised," said the Emir. 

Orders were now sent to recall Solagberu with all the Ilorin 
forces, but he refused to obey orders. Again and again peremptory 
orders were sent, with the same result. The fifth and last message 
was to the Princes and other chiefs, to the effect that whoever 
would prove himself loyal should return home at once by the order 
of the Emir. The Ilorin army now left the camp, leaving Solagberu 
alone behind together with the aUies. 

The next effort of the Emir of Ilorin was to raise the siege at 
all cost, and hence he sent his army to reinforce Ikoyi. These 
Ilorin troops entered Ikoyi, but for ten days did nothing but help 
themselves to every thing they could lay hands on, eating and 
drinking to excess. On the eleventh day they asked to be 
conducted to the scene of action. Then they joined battle, and 
completely routed the Kakanfo's army. Solagberu fled back to 
his quarters at Ilorin, and the Yorubas were dispersed. Solag- 
beru's feelings towards Abudusalami, can better be imagined 
than described. The men of note who fell in this war were, — 
The Timi of Ede, the king of Erin, the Chief Aina-Abutu-Sogun, 
and Ay ope. 

Although Solagberu was allowed to remain in his quarters, yet 
the disaffection between him and the Emir of Ilorin was very 
great, and every incident served but to heighten it. . It grew 
from jealousy and illwill to opposition and resentment, and at 
length into a civil war. The Emir's party besieged Oke Sun a, 
desperate battles were fought, but the besieged held out for a 
long time until they were reduced by famine. They were hard 
put to it in order to sustain life, living on frogs, lizards, barks 
of trees, etc., till no green thing could be found at Oke Suna, 
Solagberu had cause to remember with regret his tieachery towards 
his friend Afonja, in his hour of need, at the hands of these very 
Jamas. At last, Oke Suna was reduced and Solagberu slain. 

Abudusalami the Fulani Emir having now no rival in any 
Yoruba King or Chief, the Onikoyi having declared for him, the 
Kakanfo's army shattered, and Solagberu slain, resolved upon 
subverting the whole kingdom, and making himself the King of 
the Yoruba country. The remaining Yoruba towns spared were 
placed under tribute. He was aided in his enterprise by the 
Jamas whose tyrannies and oppression greatly exceeded those 
which they practised in the days of Afonja, which were so galling 


to the Yorubas : formerly it was only the livestock that were freely 
taken away, but now, they entered houses and led away women 
and young persons at their pleasure. It was Hterally enslaving 
the people ! 

To such a wretched and miserable condition were the people 
reduced, especially in the provinces. 

Chapter VIII 



§ I. The Owu War 

The kingdom being now in a disorganized condition each tribal 
unit constituted itself an independent state. The Ifes in the east, 
and the Ijebus in the south formed an alliance against the Owns 
to the south-west of the former and north west of the latter. 

The Owns (although now domiciled with the Egbas) are a family 
quite distinct from. Egbas or Oyos. Hardihood, stubbornness, 
immorality, and haughtiness are marked traits in their character, 
so much so that it has passed into a proverb " A bi omg I'Owu, 
o ni ako tabi abo ni, ewo ni jdo se omg nibe ? " (a child is born at 
Owu, and you ask male or female : which will be a proper child ?) 
Either sex when roused by passion would sooner die than not take 
dire revenge. Their manners were totally different from those of 
the Oyos, but from the days of Sango they have been very loyal 
to the AlAfin of Oyo. 

As warriors, the Owus were hardy, brave, and courageous, 
they had no guns, their weapons consisting of the Agedengbe 
(a long heavy cutlass) with bows and arrows. Coming to close 
quarters with cutlass in hand was the mode of fighting characteristic 
of these brave people. 

The cause of the war between these three families was this : — 
We have already stated above that during the reign of King 
Abiodun, express orders were sent from Oyo to the Ow6ni of If§, 
and the Olowu to prevent Oyos being kidnapped and sold at 
Apomu, the great market town where the interior and the coast 
people met for trade. Now, since the commencement of the 
revolution, and the disorganized state of the kingdom, the practice 
was revived. The rebellion has rendered the Central Authority 
powerless, but there were still some men of considerable power and 
influence in the land, such as Adegun the Onikoyi who was the 
premier provincial king, Toyejg theBal§ of Ogbomoso the Kakanfo, 
and Edun of Gbogun. 

A message similar to that sent by King Abiodun was now sent 
by the Onikoyi and the Kakanfo conjointly to the Olowu, and he 
in carrying out his orders had to chastise several towns ; hence 



Ikoyi Igbo, Apomu, Ikire, Irkn, He Olup^mi, Itahakun, Iseyin 
Od6, Iw^ta, Akinboto, Gbkngan, Isope, Iwar6, and Jagun, were 
destroyed by war, all in Ife territory. 

The Ow6m of Ife was highly incensed at this and declared war 
against Owu. The command of the war was entrusted into the 
hands of his commander-in-chief Singunsin. Other war-chiefs 
associated with him were : — Okansk, Gbogbo Olu, Wasin, 
Alodeloko, etc. Their first encampment was at a place called 
Dariagbon a farm village of one 01up6na, next at Sifirin at the 
confluence of the Osun and Ohk rivers. 

The Ifes thought they would make an easy conquest of Owu 
for they themselves are a brave people, and hence this war song 
in their peculiar dialect : — 

E maha ja (a) gba, Let us cut ropes, 

Igbekun la mu a di Our captives to bind. 

If a Olowu The Olowu's If a (god of palm nut) 

£wa la mu a se With our corn we'll cook. 

The Owns received the news that war was declared against them 
with great indignation. They considered themselves the power 
in these southern regions, and what infatuation has led the Ifes 
to this presumption ? With one consent they immediately marched 
out to meet them at this great distance. The engagement was a 
hand to hand fight in which the Ifes were completely routed ; their 
army was all but totally annihilated, only about 200 escaped to 
tell the tale of their dire misfortune ! 

The King of Iwo, in whose territory this disaster took place 
did not admit the survivors into his town for fear of incurring the 
displeasure of his formidable neighbours the Owus, whom he 
dreaded ar;d of whom he was jealous, but he so far sympathized 
with them that he advised that they should not undergo the 
humiUation of returning home, and he allowed them to rendezvous 
in a place called Adunbieiye for the purpose of recruiting their 
army and to try another chance, secretly hoping that fortune may 
favour them next time, and being ill at ease with such a formidable 
neighbour as the Owus. 

This small army remained in this place for about 5 years, 
unable to return home from shame, and yet could not obtain 
re-inforcement adequate for the great enterprise. 

Just at this crisis the Owus and the Ijebu traders had a serious 
complication at the Apomu market. The dispute arose from the 
sale of alligator pepper, and it resulted in the rash expedition 
against Apomu by the haughty Owus ; the town was destroyed, 
and many Ijebu traders and residents lost their lives or their all. 


The king of Iwo thereupon advised the Ifes to form an alliance 
with the Ijebus, who, like them, have now a grievance against 
Owu. When this was done, the lies at home were now wilUng 
to re-inforce their wrecked army for a conjoint attack upon Owu. 

The Ijebus now declared war against Owu, and crossing the 
Osun river, encamped at the farm of one Oso. 

The Ijebus were better armed than either their allies or their 
foes, and indeed, than any of the interior tribes, for, being nearest 
to the coast, they had the advantage of obtaining guns and gun- 
powder from Europeans in exchange for slaves. They were 
remarkable marksmen. The older men with their cloths tied 
round their waists, and the ends left flowing behind, constituted 
the regular fighting column : being too old pr too heavy to run 
away, they were obhged to be courageous. 

The Owns were mad with rage at the receipt of the news that 
anyone, such as the Ijebus, had presumed to declare war 
against them who (as they considered themselves) were the first 
power in these parts (southern Yoruba). They rushed out to 
check the progress of the Ijebus as they did that of the Ifes, and 
attacked them furiously cutlass in hand. But they were compelled 
to fall back from the steady fire of the Ijebus which did great 
havoc amongst them. Summoning courage, the Owns offered 
another obstinate battle, but they were again repulsed with a 
heavy slaughter, having lost in the first and second engagements 
about 40 of their leaders. This was the first check to their pride. 
They ralUed, however, and retreated to a short distance, and then 
again ventured upon another attack, the Ijebus advancing as 
they were retreating : they finally met, and once more fortune 
was against the Owus, and they fled precipitately to fortify their 
city against the expected siege. 

The Ijebus with their allies the Ifes encamped to the west of the 
city of Owu, under a large tree called the Ogilngun, east of the 
town of Oje. We may here remark that although the Egba towns 
of Of a and Oje were about a mile and two miles respectively from 
Owu, yet so bitter was the animosity between them that not only 
did these towns refuse their aid to Owu, but rather rejoiced at 
its misfortunes ! 

The Owus fought with their accustomed bravery, and in one 
furious assault, routed the aUies, and pursued them to Oje, Ofa, 
and Ibadan. The first two places were deserted in the general 
confusion and panic, and all sought refuge at Ibadan. Here the 
allies received reinforcements from the Egbas, and from the Oyo 
refugees from the north whose homes had been devastated by 
the Fulanis and who were now scattered about the provinces 


homeless, and without occupation. Glad to find some occupation 
in arms, these refugees flocked to the standard of the allies in 
numbers ; and thus strengthened, the war was renewed. The siege 
lasted about 5 years (usuaJly reckoned as 7). The city was obstin- 
ately defended by the brave inhabitants from the walls, and from 
the forts built on the walls of the city. One Skkulk was an expert 
sharp shooter who was never known to miss his aim ; he contri- 
buted much to the defence of the town. But he was at the same 
time a good-natured man, kind and merciful to his enemies. 
Whenever he saw a young man hazarding his life too close to the 
forts in order to show valour, pitying his youth, he used to hail 
at him from the fort, and warn him as follows : — " I give you your 
life for to-day, but do not venture here to-morrow or you shall 
die." And he was alw^ays as good as his word. Thus Sakulk 
defended the city heroically and killed many a valiant warrior. 

At last, the allies held a council of war, and were determined 
to get rid of S^kulk on the next day. The Ijebus, who had guns 
were the foremost, and the whole army directed their fire and 
showers of darts at the fort where S^kiila was fighting, all kept 
shooting at that one spot, until they saw Skkiilk fall, suspending 
from the fort ! 

Owu was now deprived of her bravest defender, and famine 
also began its fatal work within its walls. 

It was at this time the Owns began for the first time to eat 
those large beans called popondo (or awuje) hitherto considered 
unfit for food ; hence the taunting songs of the alUes : — 

Popondo I'ara Owu nje. The Owns now live on propondo, 

Aje f'ajaga bo 'run. That done, their necks for the yoke. 

Unto this day, whoever would hum this ditty within the hearing 
of an Owu man, must look out for an accident to his own person. 

For all the famine within, the besiegers could neither scale the 
walls, nor force the gates open, until Akinjobi the Olowu opened 
a gate, and escaped to Erunmu, one of the principal towns in his 
territory. The chief of this place was one Oluroko who was 
nearly related to the Ow6ni of Ife. Oluroko protected his over- 
lord. The allies pursued the Olowu to this place, but Oluroko 
when called upon to answer for his conduct, submitted himself, 
and asked for pardon, showing that he could not have acted 
otherwise and be blameless. ^ The allies saw with him, and pardon 
was accordingly granted him. 

Ikija was the only Egba town which befriended the city of 
Owu in her straits hence after the fall of the latter town, the 
combined armies went to punish her for supplying Owu with 
provisions during the siege. Being a much smaller town, they 


soon made short work of it. After the destruction of Ikija,^ the 
allies returned to their former camp at Idi Ogungun (under the 
Ogiingun tree) . 

"Owu was thenceforth placed under an interdict, never to be 
rebuilt ; and it was resolved that in future, however great might 
be the population of Oje — the nearest town to it — the town walls 
should not extend as far as the Ogungun tree, where the camp was 
pitched. Consequently to this day, although the land may be 
cultivated yet no one is allowed to build a house on it. 

[In the year 1873 Akinyemi one of the sons of one Bolude of 
Ibadan happened to build a substantial farm house at Owu. 
Latosisk then the Kakanfo at Ibadan ordered it to be pulled down 
immediately, and Akinyemi was fined besides]. 

After the fall of Owu and Ikija, the army was not disbanded, 
but the commanders of the Ife and of the Ijebu armies returned 
home to give an account of the war to their respective masters, 
but the remnants still in the camp were continually swelled by 
recruits from Oyo refugees whom the Fulanis had rendered home- 

After a time the Ijebus in the camp invited the allies home to 
their country as friends ; then they broke up the camp at " Idi 
C)gungun " and withdrew to Ipara in the south. 

It should be noted that the Owu war marked a definite period 
in Yoruba history. It was here for the first time gunpowder was 
used in war in this country, and it was followed by the devastation 
of the Egba townships and the foundation of modern Abeokuta 
and Ibadan, to be related in due course. 

§ 2. Consequences of the Revoution : — The Lasinmi War 

Whilst the Owu war was raging in the south, the northern 
provinces were in no less disturbed condition. The Onikoyi, 
not content with being the first and greatest of the provincial 
kings took advantage of the disturbed state of the country to usurp 
the King's prerogative and aimed at subjugating the other chiefs 
under his own authority. Toyeje the Kakanfo at Ogbomosg was 
alone his rival and in order to oppose him, the Onikoyi created 
Edun of Gbogun an opposition Kakanfo to him. But Toyeje 
continued in office, and so there were two Kakanfos at this period, 
a thing quite unprecedented. 

During this reign, it was said that a European traveller visited 
Oyo to whom the King granted an interview. This was most 
probably Clapperton (vide Clapperton'sL as^ Expedition to Africa, 

^ The site of Ikija is now an Ibadan farmstead known as Karaole. 


Vol. I., Chap. IV.). The King was said to have complained bitterly 
of the rebellion of his subjects, and that he was King only in name : 
he craved for military assistance in order to reduce his rebellious 
chiefs ; but as it was impossible for the stranger to afford this, 
he tried persuasive measures. He visited the several powerful 
chiefs in the country, remonstrated with them pointing out forcibly 
how " Unity is strength." His advice was favourably received 
and the result was a congress held at Ikoyi in which all the principal 
chiefs were present, and to which the King sent an Ilari. 

After a prolonged deliberation they came to an agreement to 
return to their former loyalty and allegiance. The Onikoyi 
then asked that the Ilari be called in to bear the good tidings to 
his master ; but when called aloud by his official (Ilari) name 
" Kafilegboin," the chiefs all gave a start and were much surprised 
to hear the name of the Ilari sent to them. " What ! Kafilegboin ! 
(i.e. let's have it on stiff) Is that then the King's intention ? A 
name which implies implacabiUty, resolute determination and 
inexorableness! Very well then, let the rebellion continue. No one 
among us can consider himself safe at the hands of the King should 
we return to our allegiance, since he can send us such an Ilari at a 
time as this when he wants to win us back!" The congress was 
then dissolved. 

Whether the King did this intentionally or not, we cannot say; 
but Yorubas being very diplomatic, and very suspicious of one 
another, he should have sent one whose name implies conciliation 
or harmony if he wished to win back the chiefs. 

But we consider all this from God in order that the sins of 
the nation may be purged by judgment from above. 

Shortly after this, there was a serious compUcation between the 
Kakanfo at Ogbomoso and the Timi of Ede. Ede had been 
tributary to Ogbomoso, but after the Pamo war it threw off 
its allegiance, and the Kakanfo had long been seeking for an 
opportunity to reduce it again to subjection. One cannot 
say what was the real cause of the war, but there can be no doubt 
that the Kakanfo made something or other a pretext for commenc- 
ing hostilities. The Kakanfo, however, did not take the field in 
person as he considered it only a small affair ; he sent Lasinmi 
his Balogun to reduce the town. 

Ede was beseiged, and for 15 days desperate battles were fought, 
but the town was defended heroically. 

Bamgbaiye the Timi of Ede at that time, was one of the richest 
of the provincial kings, and it was due to his largesses that the town 
was able to hold out so long. Every morning he ordered bushels of 
corn (maize) to be well cooked, and placing large earthenware pots 


at certain intervals right round the walls of the town, he filled 
them alternately with the cooked corn and cool drink (well- 
mashed Eko) or pure water, for the combatants, so that no one 
need compldn of hunger or find an excuse for leaving his post 
by day or by night. 

The strength of the besiegers and the besieged was well-nigh 
spent, when Asegbe the Olofa's wise Ilari appeared again on 
the scene to prevent further bloodshed and to save the town. 
With a small body guard, he approached the walls of the town, 
so as to be heard. With his usual persuasive eloquence he induced 
the people to surrender in order to avoid further bloodshed. " We 
are all the same tribe and one family, and why should we destroy 
one another in the very face of our common enemy, destroying us 
from without ? I give you my word, that if you capitulate the 
siege will be instantly raised. " 

These words were soon conveyed to the Timi, and so glad was 
he that he sent Asegbe a bottle of gin, which he and his attendants 
drank on the spot and the empty bottle was sent back as a token 
of good-will, that the gift was accepted. 

The Timi sent again to enquire how the negotiations might 
best be carried on. Asegbe advised him to send lo bags of cowries 
and 10 goats, and to capitulate and the siege would be raised. 
Asegbe returned to the camp to report his success, and the chiefs 
were all glad and thankful. Towards the evening the Timi paid 
the fines imposed and capitulated and the siege was raised. 

Bamgbaiye was the richest Timi that ever ruled Ede. His large 
garden was full of goats and sheep without number so that all the 
green grass in the garden was eaten up. But the creatures were 
all miserable looking as they were more in number than could be 
properly fed at home ; they should have been driven by herdsmen 
to the pastures to graze, but the war without prevented this. 
It was even said that they were so hungry that any one entering 
the garden would have to defend himself with a stick to prevent 
his clothes being eaten off his body ! When presents had to be 
given, or fines and indemnities paid in token of subjection, or to 
purchase peace as above related, selections were made from the 
well-favoured ones among them and the enemy appeased. He 
could afterwards recoup himself by taxation. 

Ede prospered under the rule of this king. 

§ 3. State of the Capital During this Period 

King Majotu was well advanced in age, before he was called 
to the throne, and consequently the business of state was for the 
most part left in the hands of the Crown Prince Adewusi surnamed 


Fuhiiniji : unfortunately, he was neither wise nor prudent but 
rather a dissolute and licentious prince, extravagant and cruel 
to a degree. His weak qualities were, however, eclipsed by his 
largess. He acted more like a monomaniac than like a rational 
being. His father was too old and weak to check him. Not- 
withstanding his exalted position he usually spent days and nights 
out-of-doors, roaming from one quarter of the town to another 
without returning home. 

Whenever he was going to s.pend a night in a house in any quarter 
of the town, he usually gave orders that his suite should start about 
half-an-hour after he had preceded them. He would clothe 
himself in tatters, carrying an axe, a club, or a stick just hke a 
madman ! He would reach the gate of the chief whose guest he 
intends to be, long before the arrival of his suite, and mingle with 
the crowd of spectators who were there waiting to see the sight of 
a royal equipage, listening to their remarks and especially to 
those of his intended host. 

If the host were to complain of the undesired visit of an un- 
principled coxcomb putting him to unnecessary trouble and ex- 
pense, and that he would rather do without the honour of his visit, 
or any other such remarks that he might make, he would hear it 
all with his own ears. As soon as his attendants arrived he would 
instantly get himself into the midst of them, change his rags for 
a magnificent robe, and step forth as becomes a prince. When 
the host now rushed forward to show his respect, and bid him a 
hearty welcome, etc., he would burst out "You hypocrite, did you 
not say so and so, when you heard I was coming to you on a visit ? 
I'll curb your lying tongue." When the host lay prostrate and 
trembling, conscious of guilt and pleading for mercy, he would 
deal him heavy blows with his club, which more often than not 
killed or disabled him for life, and in some cases, if he survived, 
he would order him to be sold into slavery. 

But if the host were really solicitous about giving him a loyal 
welcome, and showed himself desirous of giving him an entertain- 
ment worthy of his rank, he would hear and know for himself, 
so that when he joined his attendants and came forward to greet 
his host, he would accept his welcome and bid him not to care 
about how he should entertain him, but would himself order 
refreshments and entertain the host and all present out of his own 
bounty, and give him presents lavishly besides. If this prince is 
spoken of as cruel, and as having killed or sold into slavery several 
of his father's subjects, it was in this way. 

An instance related of his liberahty was as follows : — 
Upon a festival called Isul^ customarily held in the month of 


July, all the members of the royal family gorgeously dressed go 
in procession to a certain place to worship the spirits of their 
dead ancestors. The demonstrations on these occasions are 
very imposing, and usually end with gifts from the Crown Prince. 

On one such occasion, this Prince gave the Ologbo who accom- 
panied him a common gown, but the latter refused to accept it, say- 
ing it was not worthy of the dignity of His Royal Highness. The 
Crown Prince thereupon took off his robes in which he went to 
the Isule, and gave them to the Ologbo, and ordered other members 
of the royal family to do the same. 

Adewusi had his own good qualities but his enormities were 
revolting ! He accounted it a privilege to commit indecencies 
under the open sky, surrounded by his attendants and Eunuchs 
holding large cloths in the four corners as a curtain to shield him 
from sight. In his train were always some of his wives and 

He would commit rape with impunity, and whether to show 
that he was above law, or out of pure spite to the chiefs, in his 
visits to any of them it was his custom on entering their houses, 
to perform the same act in the open court-yard before he took his 
seat in the piazza ! 

This beastly conduct bemeaned him in the estimation of the 
Oyo chiefs, and not only had he lost all respect from them on that 
account, but, on one occasion, he very nearly lost his life at 
the hands of the Basorun, in whose palace he had the temerity 
to venture on the same action ! On his arrival, his supernal 
highness came out to receive him as his guest, but was shocked 
to find that Adewusi made no exception in his lewd practices 
in regard to himself. He returned in a rage to his inner apart- 
ment, to reappear with a drawn sword, and would have despatched 
him and his mistress on the spot had not the Prince and all his 
attendants fled away in confusion. The Basorun's servants 
pursued after them with clubs and dispersed them. 

Adewusi had no one among all the chiefs to appeal to for 
sympathy, as he had offended every one of them in the same 
way, although none but the Basorun was able to resent it; hence 
their sympathy was rather on the side of the Basorun. 

But the ultimate result of this would have been serious for the 
Prince had not his wise and aged father conciliated the chiefs. 

Knowing what the outcome would probably be, His Majesty 
summoned a meeting of the chiefs, noblemen, and other important 
personages in the city and said to them in a parable : — " The 
Crown Prince was my creditor when we were in the other world, 
and when I could not pay the debt, I escaped to this world. He 


pursued me hither demanding payment, and being born of royalty, 
I was able to pay off my debt. 

But my difficulty is this — for the purpose of which I have 
summoned you all my chiefs for your advice and help. The 
Crown Prince not content with the payment, demanded that I 
should carry back the amount paid to the other world ; and for 
this I crave your advice and help." 

The Oyo chiefs asked His Majesty for an explanation of the 
parable and his reply was as follows : — 

" The enormities of the Crown Prince in your quarters and in 
your houses, I have heard of, and what would have been the result, 
if the Basorun had killed liim in his house, we all know. Would 
it not have cost me my own life also ? What I crave of you is 
that in future I should be exonerated, and not be charged with 
his conduct." The Oyo chiefs were appeased and promised not to 
implicate the father in the crimes of his son. 

Added to the scourge of the sword, divine judgment fell upon 
the nation in famine also and pestilence. Towards the end of this 
reign there was a famine in the land for two years which obliter- 
ated every trace of the plenty they revelled in when there was peace 
and prosperity. Many died from it. It was a struggle for many 
to be able to support their family, especially those in exile ; but 
the richness of the soil enabled those whose towns were not 
destroyed to render great assistance to their guests the refugees. 
But unfortunately there was a dearth of the latter rains and the 
dry season crops could not be planted. This following closely 
after the Lasinmi war caused the distress to be more severe. 

Gbogi, an Ijesa town was attacked and destroyed only for the 
sake of the provisions it contained, no one caring for slaves or 
booty. The staple of the Ijesas being yam and not corn, the 
famine was less felt amongst them, as the yam crop does not 
depend upon the latter rain. This famine was called lyan 

It was said that a subscription was made by several famihes to 
the amount of 6 heads of cowries, and a special messenger was 
sent to the Egba territory to buy corn. The return of the messenger 
was eagerly looked forward to, and at length he returned with a 
merry heart whistling as he walked along : but there was no load 
on his head, the 6 heads worth of corn was carried in a bag slung 
on his shoulders ! and he protected it beneath the cloth he wrapped 
himself with, so that no one may know what he had with him. 
It was a treasure ! It was shared by the subscribers by counting 
the grains. 

This calamity was followed by a pestilence called the Pehe, 


a disease of the respiratory organs like the recent {1892) fatal 
epidemic of Influenza ; thousands were swept away by it, and 
King Majotu was among its victims. Of a long succession 
of Kings, it was his good fortune to have died a natural death. 

At the death of the King, the Crown Prince was told to die 
with his father, according to the custom now prevailing. But he 
was unwilling to do so, and was giving out bribes liberally to the 
chiefs that they should give him their support ; and trusting 
to his former largess to the people, he was determined upon a 
civil fight, hoping for a general rising in his favour ; but Akawo, 
his bosom friend quietly undeceived him, and advised him to die 
honourably, or he would have the mortification of seeing himself 
deserted at the most critical moment by those on whom he counted 
most to espouse his cause. Adewusi then committed suicide, 
and Prince Amgdo was placed on the throne. 

Chapter IX 


§ I. Evil Days for the Capital 

Prince Amod6 was one of the grandchildren of Ajampati the 
twin brother of King Ajagbo. He came to the throne at a time 
when the kingdom was distracted by anarchy and confusion. 
The Fulanis having an eye on the capital of Yoruba-land, but not 
being confident enough to make an attack on the city whilst there 
were so many powerful chiefs in the land, who might suddenly 
return to their allegiance, were using prudence and astuteness to 
spread the disaffection. They were fanning the flames of discord 
by allying themselves with one or other of the chiefs known to be 
rebellious against their lawful sovereign. None of the provincial 
kings now paid tribute to Oyo or acknowledged the authority of 
the King. He was virtually King of the capital only. 

In order to have a powerful friend and ally in whom he could 
confide in time of emergency, King Amodo made an alliance with 
Lanloke the chief of Ogodo, a market town, at the confluence 
of the river Niger, where Yorubas and Tapas met for an exchange 
of merchandise. Ogodo was originally a Tapa town, but subse- 
quently the Yoruba population predominated, nearly all the 
children of influential Oyo chiefs resided there permanently for 
the purpose of trade. King Amod6 cemented and strengthened 
this aUiance by giving his daughter to Lanloke to wife, and 
treating him as an independent sovereign. 

To show how weak and contemptible the AlAfin has become, 
Lanloke most brutally and cowardly beat the princess his wife 
actually to death, and boasting over it, took to himself the nick- 
name, " My name is Amod6, and I put Amod6 to death. My name 
is Ajebaba, and I enslaved Ajebaba." 

Fearing the resentment and vengeance of Oyo for this act, 
he hastily formed an alHance with the Ilgrins, and assumed the 
aggressive, and so besieged Oyo. Oyo at length capitulated and 
the Ilorin troops entered and sacked the city. Oyo was plundered 
of nearly everything, but no captives were made excepting 
some Oyo beauties who were carried away with the spoils, 

Jimba, one of the head slaves of the Ilorin Emir was the chief 
spoiler. He took away all the Egugun dress, and forced the 
citizens to accept the Koran, which necessitated every one to 



change his name for an Arabic name, the only alternative being 
the sword. 

Thus at length Oyo became tributary to Ilorin ! 

§ 2. The Third Attempt to Expel the Fulanis 
The Kanla Expedition 

Amod6 was ill at ease under the yoke of the Fulani Emir of 
Ilorin, and he prevailed upon all the Yoruba chiefs throughout 
the country to unite and rid themselves of their common enemy.' 
Apparently they were united, but between the capital and the 
provinces, the spirit of disaffection and jealousy was strong. 
It was understood full well that the King's policy was to use 
them together to rid himself first of the common enemy, and then 
to subdue the rebel chiefs one after another, by force of arms. 

But the Ilgrins on the other hand were more diplomatic. In 
order to facilitate their plans, they made friendship with some of 
the Yoruba chiefs who were men of power, and who, if united, 
would be able to oppose them successfully ; such were Prince 
Atiba of Ago Oja, Edun chief of Gbogun, the most powerful 
Yoruba general of the day, and Adegun the Onikoyi the premier 
provincial king. 

Whenever there was war with the Ilorins these chiefs usually 
acted against their own real and national interests, either by 
betraying their own nation and people, or by giving their backs 
to the enemy without shooting an arrow, and thus allowing the 
Ilorin horse the advantage of out-flanking their foes. 

King Amod6 having prevailed upon all the chiefs to come 
together, declared war against the Fulanis, and Ilorin was besieged 
by a formidable army raised throughout the country. 

Adegun the Onikoyi was suffering from indisposition and 
was really unfit to take the field ; but Edun of Gbogun his rival, 
forced him to go to the war, secretly planning with the Ilgrins 
that he would give way in the heat of the battle, in order that 
Adegun might be taken alive ! This battle took place at Kanla 
from which the expedition was named. 

Edun having carried out his act of treachery, the Onikoyi 
was surrounded by the Ilorin horse ; but he fought, and fought 
bravely and fell like a hero. Thus the AlAfin's army was routed, 
and the people fled away in confusion. 

It was at the time when the rivers overflowed their banks, 
and a number of people were drowned at the river Ogun. The 
most notable chief drowned on this occasion was Oja the founder 
of Agd (the present Qyo). Prince Atiba, one of the rising power, 


rode his powerful horse into the river, and narrowly escaped being 

The Yoruba towns deserted at this defeat were Esiele and 

§ 3. The Vicissitudes of Ikoyi 

The fall of Adegun at the Kanla war left the kingship of Ikoyi 
vacant. There were two aspirants to the title, viz., Siyenbola, 
the son of the late Adegun, and Ojo, the son of Adegun's prede- 
cessor. The majority of the people was for Siyenbola, and Ojo's 
partisans were but few. Ojo, however, went to Oyo to have 
the title conferred on him by the Suzerain as of yore, and he 
succeeded in obtaining the Alafin's favour in his claim. 

King Amodo was glad for this mark of recognition and hoped 
for the gradual return of the provincial kings to their allegiance. 
He therefore made Ojo take a solemn oath that he would ever be 
loyal to him. His Majesty strictly charged him against making 
any league with Edun the rebel chief of Gbogun through whose 
town he must pass to reach his home at Ikoyi. This charge was 
occasioned by the treacherous conduct of Edun at the Kanla 
war by which the Alafin lost the day. "I am a King," said 
Amodo, " and you are now a king. Kings should form aUiance 
with kings and not with a commoner." 

The King justly anticipated what would happen, for when 
Ojo the new Onikoyi reached Gbogun on his way home, Edun 
sought his friendship and alliance, and pressed him to take an 
oath with him, that they would always be faithful to each other. 
Ojo stoutly refused to take the oath, alleging that it was unbecoming 
for a king to take an oath with one not of royal blood. But 
Edun was a man of power, and the Onikoyi was already in his 
clutches being in his town and he felt he could do whatever he 
hked with him ; ; he therefore insisted that the oath should be 
taken before the Onikoyi could leave his town. Ojo was in a 
dilemma, his oath of allegiance to the Alafin forbade him to dis- 
obey the King's charge, and now he was at the mercy of this 
miscreant. He had now no option, the oath must be taken and 
the only way out of it the Onikoja could find was to delegate one 
of his attendants to perform the business for him, as the fitness 
of things required from the inequality of their respective ranks. 
The Kakanfo considered this an insult to his dignity, and he 
resented it by ordering Atanda one of his own attendants to take 
the oath with the Onikoyi's delegate. 

Whilst this was taking place at Gbogun, tidings reached Ikoyi 
that Ojo had succeeded in obtaining the title from the AlAfin, 


and Siyenbgla who had usurped it therefore fled from the town 
with all his party to Ilorin. 

The remnant of Ojo's party at home who did not accompany 
him to Ovg met him at Esiele with the news that the town had 
been deserted from disgust that he should reign over them. 
The Onikoyi was too weak to proceed to occupy Ikoyi with his 
small party, he therefore remained at Esiele. 

A week after this, the Ilorin horse came against Esiele to espouse 
the cause of Siyenbgla, and they had seven days of hard fighting, 
but finding it not such an easy business to rush the town, as they 
had supposed, they retreated home to make full preparation for 
a regular siege at the ensuing year. 

The siege was accordingly laid in the following year. Esi§le 
held out for a long time, being heroically defended by its balogun 
Kurumi, and another notable war-chief Dad6 (of both of whom 
we shall hear more afterwards) . When they could hold out no 
longer, the war-chiefs deserted the town, leaving mostly the women 
and children at the mercy of the conquerors. Ojo the Onikoyi 
was slain, and Siyenbgla having now no rival obtained the title of 
Oniko5a from the Emir of Ilgiin, and returned with those of 
his party who went with him to Ilgrin to re-occupy the town. 
Thus Ikoyi was re-peopled but no longer as a vassal state of 
Ovg but of Ilgrin. The city was rapidly refilled by those of Ojo's 
party that escaped the fall of Esiele and they now acknowledged 
Siyenbgla as their king. 

Esiele also was again re-peopled, as it was not actually destroyed 
by war but deserted under stress. The inhabitants were per- 
mitted to remain as they were because the siege was laid against 
the town on account of the late Onikoyi — no longer alive. 

Shortly after this there was a serious complication between 
Edun of Gbogun the Kakanfo and Dada the Bale of Ade)d which 
broke out into a war. Edun marched his army through Esiel§ 
to besiege Adeyi, but Fasgla the Bale of Esiele hearing that the 
Kakanfo's army was to pass through his town having hardly 
recovered from the effects of the late war, and dreading the 
devastation and pillaging of farms consequent on such a march, 
deserted the town. So Esiele was again desolate, the people 
finding refuge at Ogbomgsg and Ikoyi. 

The expedition, however, was unsuccessful. The Kakanfo's 
army suffering many reverses, it had to be given up. 

§ 4. The Gbogun War and Fall of Edun the Kakanfo 

Gbogun was the last of the powerful towns in the country 
and as the aim of the Fulanis was the subversion of the whole 


country, a pretext for war was soon found in order to lay siege 
against her. 

Abudusalami the Emir of Ilorin threatened the Kakanfo with 
war if he refused to pay allegiance to him ; Edun accepted the 
challenge and began at once to make a vast preparation, offensive 
and defensive. 

Ikoyi being already a vassalage of Ilorin and a neighbouring 
town, Edun regarded her as an enemy and insisted that it should 
be deserted at once or he would take her by surprise. Siyenbola 
the Onikoyi sent ambassadors to Gbogun to arrange terms of peace 
but Edun refused to hear ot any such thing and threatened to 
destroy the town the next day, if not deserted at once as he would 
not afford the Ilorins a base of operation against him at such 
close quarters. There being no alternative, Ikoyi was a second 
time deserted and Siyenbola escaped to Ilorin. 

Gbogun was soon besieged by the Ilorins and desperate battles 
were fought, the defenders fighting heroically and could not 
be overwhelmed until at last the city was reduced by famine and 
thus Gbogun fell, the last of the powerful towns of Yoruba. 

Edun the greatest Yoruba general of the day escaped by way 
of Gbodo where he was overtaken, being hotly pursued by the 
Ilorin horse. He had with him a handful of veterans and such 
was the terror his very name inspired that the pursuers did not 
dare to offer him battle. 

The men of Gbodo were torn between two opinions whether they 
should afford protection to their fallen general or allow him to escape 
in peace. But the pursuers insisted on his destruction, saying ' ' If you 
allow him to escape, your lives will go for his life as you will show 
yourselves thereby to be an enemy to the Emir of Ilorin." This 
decided the men of Gbodo; in order to save themselves they took up 
arms against the fallen general and overwhelmed him and his 
faithful few, the brave man himself falling under a shower of darts 
fighting gallantly at the head of his little band. His head was 
taken off, raised upon a pole and carried in triumph to the camp 
and from thence to Ilorin ; OdQewu his eldest son and some of 
the distinguished war-chiefs who were taken being compelled to 
ride behind it in order to grace the triumph of the conquerors. 

On the 3rd day after their arrival at Ilorin Oduewu succeeded 
in purchasing the head of his father and had it decently buried 
to save himself from disgrace. 

After the fall of Gbogun, Siyenbola returned the second time 
to Ikoyi. Fasgla the Bale of Esiele, who had escaped with his 
family and a few followers to Ogbomgso, also returned to his town. 
On his way to E§i§le, he was the guest of Siy§nbola the Onikoyi 


for three days. He and his sons Sinolu and Abgsede and his 
eldest daughter Omotajo were feasted on the flesh of an elephant 
just killed and brought to the Onikoyi. This was regarded as an 
auspicious omen. 

§ 5. The Pole War and the Death of the Abuousalami 

The Fulanis having subdued all the chiefs in Yoruba proper 
and reduced the large towns by conquest or annexation, his 
ambition led Abudusalami to turn his attention to the Ijesa tribes 
for conquest, and hence he sent an expedition to that province. 

The Fulanis depended more on their cavalry than on their 
infantry, the latter being armed with only a sword and a club. 
In a country with primitive forests like those in the Ijesa province 
horses were of no avail, and hence the Ijesas chased the enemy in 
their mountain tracks and cut in pieces the greater part of their 
horsemen. In pursuing their foot soldiers, they cry after them 
" Pole, Pole," which in their dialect means Down, Down. From 
this circumstance this expedition was termed the Pol^ war. 

After the return of this expedition Abudusalami fell sick and 
died. He was a successful king who raised the Fulani power to 
that pitch of glory which Ilorin has attained. 

The late Abudusalami and Shitta were the children of the slave 
wife of Alimi and being the two eldest they naturally took the lead. 

On their father's death Abudusalami divided his property into 
four equal parts, called all his brothers to take each one his portion 
beginning from the youngest. His half brothers took theirs 
and went away, but as Shitta was about to take his Abudusalami 
stopped him and sent him away with a walking stick. With the 
slaves and riches of himself and his brother, he kept up his royal 
estate and had sufficient means to carry on the war and to effect 
the conquest of Yoruba proper and hence at his death the throne 
and the property devolved upon Shitta, the half brothers having 
no longer any claim. Abudusalami hereby secured the throne of 
Ilorin to his own and his brother's descendants to the total 
exclusion of the half brothers and the succession to this day 
alternates between the family of the two. 

The children of the lawful wives (especially those of the Fulani 
lady) considered the throne theirs by right, but as they could not 
claim anything of the royal estates they were excluded from the 
throne as well. Abudusalami was succeeded by his brother 
Shitta. Olusi the Bale of Ogbomgso also died about this time. 

Chapter X 


§ I. The Destruction of Egba Towns 

We have seen above (Chap. VII) that after the fall of Owu, and the 
punishment inflicted upon some Egba towns for secretly befriending 
the beleagured city, the camp at Idi Ogugun broke up, and the 
leading Ife and Ijebu generals returned home to their respective 
masters, but the rest of the aUied armies with the Oyo refugees 
were invited by the Ijebus to Ipara, a town of Ijebu Remg. 
Making this place their headquarters, these restless bands of 
marauders found occupation for their arms in conquering and 
subjugating several towns in Ijebu Rem.o under the Awujale of 
Ijebu Ode, viz Ode, Iperu, Ogere and Makun. 

Pretext was soon found for waging war with the Egbas who were 
then living in small villages scattered all over the area between 
Ipara and Ibadan. Several expeditions were made from their 
base at Ipara, and Iporo, Eruwon, Oba, Itoko, Itesi, Imo, Ikereku, 
Itoku, etc., were taken. 

The following are the names of the distinguished war-chiefs in 
this campaign : — Oyo chiefs — Oluyedun, Lakanle, Oluyole, 
Adelakun, Opeagbe, Abitiko, YSmati, Oluoyg, Koseiko, Abidogun, 
Apksa, Osun, Laleitan, Bankole, Fadeyi Ogani-ija, Agbeni, etc. 

All these chiefs oined the allied army as private soldiers, but 
the fortunes of war raised them to positions of great distinction. 
Notwithstanding this, they were looked down upon by the Ife 
and Ijebu leaders under whose auspices they joined the war against 
Owu, and had no voice in their councils. But they were soon to 
show their superiority. 

Ife chiefs — Maye (the generahssimo in the absence of Singusin) 
Ogugu, Derin-Okiin, Labgsinde, Ogini, Aregbe, Olufadi, Degoke, 
Kugbayigbe, Oluygde, Epo, Kudayisi. 

Ijebu chiefs — Kalejaiye, Amoibo, Osunlalu, Oguade, Argwgsanle, 

Rich with the booty of these expeditions, and finding no fresh 
fields of operation for their arms they decided to disband the 
army. The Ijebu war chiefs returned home and the Ifes set out 
to return by way of Oorun ; the Oygs who had nowhere to go to 



accompanied them. There were thousands of Oyos already in 
Ife districts. 

At 06run (a Gbagura town) they found fresh employment 
for their arms when the men of that place refused them a passage. 
Another circumstance also occurred which hastened the siege of 
Oorun and the fall of the remaining Egba townships. 

A dispute arose between the people of Idomapa a neighbouring 
town and the Gbaguras about territorial limits which at length broke 
out into war and Oluwole the king of Idomapa who was the 
weaker of the two combatants asked the aid of Labgsinde one of 
the leading Ife war-chiefs, and through him the rest of the Ife 
and Oyo war-chiefs against Ajiboso the king of the Gbaguras. The 
allies encamped at Idomapa and Oorun was the scene of conflict, 
where the Gbaguras concentrated all their forces to oppose the 
Idomapas and their allies. 

The Gbagura army was swelled by re-inforcement from Ika, 
Owe Ikija, Iwokoto. The contest was furious and one Oga 
Oh5roagallantwar-chiefgreatlydistinguishedhimself in the defence 
of 06run. As long as he could handle his bow and arrows, the 
enemy was kept at bay ; but he fell in an engagement, and at the 
same time famine had commenced its direful work, and so the 
assailants successfully reduced the town. 

As their fighting men had all fallen at Oorun the conquest of 
all the rest of the Gbagura towns was complete. Oorun when 
captured was fired ; being a town situated on a high hill, the 
conquerors were able by the aid of the light to pursue their 
victory to the next town which they found deserted, and so on 
to the next and the next until they reached Ojoh6. 

The towns deserted and overrun that night were Oorun, Ijaiye- 
maja, Kosi-kosi, Ikerekuiwere, Ora, Ibadan. Ofa and Oje were 
also deserted, but the conquerors did not know of this till three 
days after as they lay outside their line of march. 

From Ibadan they followed up the conquest to Ojokodo Iwohaha, 
and Eguoto ; all these places were deserted and plundered in 
one night and by the dawn of day they were before 0]6h6. Ojghb 
offered a stout resistance and being weary from long marches the 
conquerors retired to find a resting place. Of all the towns overrun 
the previous night, Ibadan alone they found not destroyed by 
fire, and so this marauding band hastily occupied it, the 
war-chiefs taking possession of any compound they chose, and their 
men with them and thus Ibadan was again re-peopled but not by 
the owners of the town, but by a composite band of marauders, 
consisting of Oyos, Ifes, Ijebus, and some friendly Egbas, Maye 
a bold and brave Ife chieftain being their leader. Next to him 


was Labgsinde also an Ife, but, through his mother, of Oyo descent. 
These two leaders were men of different character and opposite 
temperament. Maye was of an irritable temper, in manners 
rough and domineering, and never failed at all times to show his 
contempt for the Oyos, chiefly because they were homeless refugees. 
At the head of the Oyos was Lakanl^ a bold and brave leader who 
alone of all the Oyo war-chiefs could venture to open his mouth when 
Maye spoke. Labosinde on the contrary was most agreeable and 
very fatherly in his manners and therefore much respected by all. 

Ibadan now became the headquarters of these marauders from 
which place Ojoho was besieged and at length taken. At this 
time also Ikeiye Owe and a part of Ika were deserted ; the Ika 
people escaping to Iwokoto. All these were Eeba villages of the 
Gbagura section. 

§ 2. Foundation of the Present Abeqkuta 

As stated in the preceding section there were some friendly 
Egba chiefs who joined the marauders at Idi Ogiigun and at 
Ipara, and now they were all living together at Ibadan. The most 
influential among them were : — Lamgdi, Apati, Ogunbona, Oso, 
Gbewiri, and Inakoju. OgQdipe, who afterwards became a notable 
chief at Abeokuta was then but a blacksmith and a private soldier. 

Rivalry was so rife among these various tribes that altercations 
were frequent, and one led to a civil war. In a public meeting 
held at the Isale Ijebu quarter of the town, Lamodi an Egba 
chief shot Ege an influential Ife chief down dead with a pistol, 
and in the commotion which ensued Lamodi himself was slain. 
For fear of the Ifes avenging the death of Ege the Egbas withdrew 
in a body from Ibadan and encamped on the other side of the 
Ona river, about 3 or 4 miles distant Here also they were ill at 
ease and after divination they sent for one Sodeke to be their 
leader, and they escaped to Abeokuta then a farm village of an 
Itoko man, and a resting place for traders to and from the Oke 
Ogun districts. Sodeke was at the head of this new colony until 
his death. This was about the year 1830 They were continually 
swelled by Egba refugees from all parts of the countr}^ and also 
by Egba slaves who had deserted their masters. At Abeokuta the 
refugees kept together according to their family distinctions, viz. : — 

1. The Egba Agbeyin comprising Ake the chief town, Ijeun, 
Kemta, Imo, Igbore, etc. These were under the Alake as chief. 

2. Egba Agura (or Gbagura) comprising Agura the chief town 
Ilugun, Ibadan, Ojohg, Ika, etc., under the Agura as chief. 

3. Egba Oke Ona with Oko the chief town. Ikija, Ikereku, 
Idomapa, Odo, Podo, etc., under the Osile as chief. 


Here also the Owus joined them, one common calamity throwing 
them together. It was some considerable time after that Ijaiye 
joined them, and so by degrees all the Egba townships about 153 
became concentrated at Abeokuta, the new town comprising Ijemo 
Itoko and a few others who were already on the spot. 

Until the death of Sodeke in A.D. 1844 the Egbas never 
spoke of having a king over them, Sodeke wielding supreme 
power in a very paternal way. Of external relations, very little (if 
any) existed, each of these families managed its own affairs, and 
there was no properly organized central government. 

Even after the foundation ot Abeokuta there were still some 
Egbas residing at Ibadan. Egba women also who were unable 
or unwilling to go with their husbands to the new settlement were 
taken as wives by the new colonists at Ibadan and they became 
the mothers of most of the children of the first generation of the 
new Ibadan. 

From this it will be seen that the current tale of the Egbas 
being driven from Ibadan by the Oygs is lacking in accuracy. 
Such then is the foundation of the present Abeokuta. 

§ 3. The Egbado Tribes 

The Egbados are a Yoruba family bordering on the coast. 
They were very loyal subjects of the AlAfin^ before the revolution 
that altered the pohtical state of the country. The Olu or king of 
Ilaro was the greatest king of the Egbados, having about 443 
ruling chiefs under him, himself a crowned vassal of Oyo. 
The ancient custom was for the Alafin to crown a new Olu 
every three years. After the expiration of his term of office the 
retiring Olu was to take 10 of his young wives, and whatever else 
he chose and proceed to the metropohs, and there to spend the 
rest of-his days in peace. There was a quarter of the city assigned 
to them known as Oke Olu (the quarter of the Olus). 

The parting between these young wives and their mothers 
was most touching. The relatives generally accompanied them 
as far as to Jiga or Jakg, and the wailings and lamentations on such 
occasions were as one mourning for the dead. Hence the sa5nng 

^ In the year 1902 the head chief of Ifo died, an Egbado town 
about 6 hours distant from Ilaro. Sir Wm. MacGregor, then 
Governor of Lagos, asked the chiefs of the town who their overlord 
was, to appoint a successor, they replied the Alafin of Oyo. He 
was much puzzled at this. He told them he was too far, they 
had better apply to the Alake of Abeokuta. Evidently they 
at least were not affected by the revolution. 


" A ri erinkan I'Egba iri Olu " (the Olu is seen by the Egbas but 
once in ahfe time). 

Next to the Olu of Ilaro came the Onisare or king of Ijana, 
but his was not a crowned head. The appointment of the Onisare 
was also from Oyo, and a Tapa was always selected for that office. 
The reason for this is not known. The Olu and the people of Ilaro, 
as well as the Onisare and the people of Ijana were so to speak but 
one people ; they observed the same national customs, and the same 
laws, their national deity was the god Ifa and the annual festivals 
in its honour were observed in both places one after the other in 
the same month, each lasting for a week, the one commencing the 
day after the completion of the other so as to give the people 
of both places an opportunity of taking part in each other's 

The following ceremony usually brought the anniversary to a 
close : — ^Both these kings were to meet in a certain place in the 
open field midway between the two towns : two mounds of earth 
previously raised opposite each other served for each king to 
enthrone himself upon, the one turning his back to the other 
as they were not to see each other's face. The one to reach the 
spot first would sit with his face turned homewards, the other 
on his arrival does the same, and thus they sit back to back, each 
one looking homewards ; communication with each other was by 
messengers. A numerous retinue always attended either to take 
an active part in the proceedings or as mere spectators. 

This custom served as a bond of union and friendship between 
them, a people having identical interests. 

The kings of Ijakoand Jiga are called Abepa : they had a strange 
custom of standing seven days and seven nights in the seventh 
month of the year during the anniversary of their national deity, 
after which they may sit down. 

The Egbados were a commercial people and of a quiet and 
peaceful disposition and. as a result, were considered very wealthy. 
They termed themselves "Egbaluw§" to distinguish them 
from the Egbas in forest lands (now inhabiting Abeokuta) whom 
they designated " Egbalugbo." They traded in kola nuts, palm 
oil, and fish. They had very few slaves, and their wealth consisted 
in beads and native cloths. From Kano and Sokoto they imported 
what they termed Erinla and Esuru beads in quantities, as they 
esteemed them very valuable. 

The Beginning of Disturbance in the Egbado Districts. 
The Ijaka War. A serious complication arose between the 
people of Ijana and Ijaka which ended in the conquest and fall of 


this peaceful tribe. War was very foolishly declared against Ijaka 
by the Onisare of Ijana which resulted in the defeat ot the aggressor. 

There was a rich and influential chief at Ijana called Dekun, 
in whom the Ijanas trusted when they rashly declared war, not 
knowing that he was a great coward. At the height of the battle 
Dekun dastardly gave way and the IjcLnas were completely routed. 
He escaped to Oniyefun and those who like himself escaped with 
their lives murmured against him, and even insulted him to his 
face, calling him " white-feathered," " a poltroon," " the cause of 
their defeat." Dekuri was offended at this, and more from shame 
than from the insult he resolved never to return to Ijana. He 
remained at Oniyefun for a considerable time, until a war 
(which we shall notice afterwards) met him there. 

On the return home of the remnants of the defeated IjSnas 
Dekun's house was plundered. 

Dekun afterwards spent several years at Ijaka with whose 
king he contracted friendship, and later perhaps in order to avenge 
the insults received, he took refuge with the king of Dahomey whom 
he asked to espouse his cause. The king of Dahomey destroyed 
Inubi where thousands of Oyo refugees made their home ; of these 
about 13,000 were children or grandchildren of Oyo nobles or 
well-to-do people " whose fathers had kept horses " before the 
devastation of the Yoruba country by the Fulanis. They were 
all put to the sword by the Dahomians with the exception of one 
Ekuola to whom Dekun was under some obligation, and he 
evidently interposed and had his life spared. Thus did 
Dekun resent his so-called insdlt. Such was the beginning 
of the fall of this peaceful Egbaluwe tribe, and the inroads of the 
Dahomians into the Yoruba country. 

Two years after the destruction of Inubi, the king of Dahomey 
took Refurefu by capture in war. 

A Short Account of Dekun. Dekun was an Ilari of Oyo, placed 
at Ijana by one of the AlAfins as the King's representative. 
Instead of upholding the King's interests when the great chiefs 
of the kingdom rebelled against their sovereign, he also rebelled 
against his master, and made himself great at Ijclna, by appro- 
priating all taxes and tributes he should have forwarded to Oyo. 
He joined the marauders at Ipara in the devastation ot the Egba 
principalities, but at the occupation and settlement of Ibadan he 
returned to Ijana, and did not reside with the new settlers. In 
one of their expeditions Sodeke was captured by him, and served 
him for years as his horse boy. But providence destined Sodeke 
for a great position in life and hence he eventually became the 
renowned leader of the Egbas to Abeokuta. 


Dgkun was rich but childless, although he kept a numerous 
harem. There is a story told in connection with him which is 
worth recording : — 

A woman ot an abandoned character called Isokun had left 
her husband and children at Ipokia to become Dekun's mistress. 
This woman on one occasion went on a long journey and required 
some justification for her prolonged absence ; on her way home, 
she saw at the last sleeping place of the caravan, a mother with 
her new born babe 3 days old, she quietly stole this babe from its 
mother's side while she was fast asleep, and immediately went off 
with it. On reaching home she gave it as an excuse for her long 
absence that she was enceinte of this child before she left home, and 
when she might have returned she was unfit for travelling but 
immediately after delivery she was able to hasten home. 

Dekun rejoiced that after all he was now a father and to 
demonstrate his joy he invited all the principal men and chiefs of 
Ijana and of the adjacent towns to a feast held in honour of the 
event. Presents poured in from every rank and station for the 
child and the supposed mother according to the father's dignit}' 
and every care and attention were bestowed on them. 

Meanwhile the real mother was in eager search for her lost 
baby. She at first supposed that it might have been a wolf 
that snatched it away from her side, and consequently she explored 
the surrounding woods if haply she might find the bones. Failing 
in this she was resolved to seek for it in the town ; and taking it 
quarter by quarter she entered every house asking the mothers 
to produce their babies, in order to identify her own. On the 
i8th day of search she reached Dekun's house and discovered her 
baby with Isokun. Then there arose an uproar about the child 
and a regular " to do " about the whole affair with assertions 
and denials on either side. A proper investigation of the case 
having been instituted, and signs of recent delivery not found 
in Isokun she was thus brought to book ; the whole truth was at 
length extorted from her when her arms were bound behind her 
back with a new rope, till both elbows and wrists met. 

From shame she escaped from Ijana to her former home at 
Ipokia where she had left her sons and daughters to become 
D§kun's mistress. Her name was put to vulgar street songs, 
being branded as a man-stealer. 

Dekun lived in Dahomey till the accession of King Atiba of 
the present Oyo who demanded him from the King of Dahomey, 
and he was given up. He was charged as a rebel and a traitor, 
condemned, and pubhcly executed at the market-place. The 
sentence was universally held to be a just one. 


Dekun it seems had a son called Onibudo ; perhaps an adopted 
one as is customary with childless chiefs ; his life was spared, but 
he was degraded by the AlAfin and the mean title of Agbomopa 
was conferred on him and his descendants. 

§ 4. The Founding of Modakeke 

By the Fulani conquest of all the principal towns in Yoruba 
proper, fugitives from all parts escaped southwards and settled 
in all Ife towns except at He Ife the chief town. They were in 
great numbers at Moro, Ipetumodu, Odiiabon, Yakioy6, Ifa-lende, 
Sope, Waro, Ogi as well as in Apomu and Ikire. 

Just about the time of the Lasinmi war a Mohammedan at 
Iwo called Mohomi invited the Folanis of Ilorin to extend theii 
conquest to the towns of these Eastern districts, as the Oyos 
were then engaged in a civil war. The Ilorin army accordingly 
came and overran the above mentioned towns. The latter made 
no attempt at resistance but simply deserted their towns and with 
all the Oyo refugees escaped to He Ife their chief town and were 
well received and protected by Aldnmgyero (aUas Odunle) the 
then reigning Ow6ni of Ife. The most important Oyo chief 
amongst the refugees was the Asirawo, the king of Iraw6. 

Before long, a feeling of disaffection became evident between 
the Ife citizens and the exiles. The Owoni spared the Ife refugees, 
but enslaved all the Oyos making them " hewers of wood and 
drawers of water " after having murdered the Asirawo their chief. 
One ot the Asirawo's sons enslaved was the afterwards renowned 
chieftain of Modakeke, Ojo Akitikori by name. 

The Oyos built their houses, cleaned their farms and performed 
all sorts of menial work for them. This was towards the close 
of Akinmoyer6's reign. Gbanlare who succeeded him was more 
favourably disposed towards the Oyos, and they now received 
better treatment, but this was not for long. Gbegbaaje succeeded 
Gbanlare, and the bad feeling and cruelty against Oyos were 
revived ; many of them were even sold into slavery. This king 
also was soon murdered. 

Winmolaje who succeeded Gbegbaaje utilized the services 
of these Oyos in repelling the inroads of the Ijesas into his territory. 
From appreciation of their services, he was kindly disposed toward 
them ; but the hatred and malice of the Ife citizens generally was 
so strong that not even the well-disposed could curb the virulence 
of the opposite party. 

A pretext was soon found again for murdering the well disposed 
Ow6ni. Adegunle succeeded to the throne: he was partly of 


Yoruba descent on the mother's side and hence was the benefactor 
of the Oyos all his days. 

Before he accepted the crown of Ife he made the chiefs take 
an oath that they would not find a pretext for murdering him as 
they did his predecessors, but would allow him to die a natural 
death ; they readily agreed to this request. Soon after his accession 
knowing full well the disposition of his people, he took the pre- 
caution at once of accumulating ammunition of war, in order to 
make himself strong against any attack from the populace. He 
was not of a warlike disposition but was rather given to agricultural 
pursuits ; hence his nickname " Ab'ewe ila gbagkdk gbagada " 
(one whose okra leaves are very broad) from his garden plantations. 

The Oyos were by this time growing to be an important section 
in the community, having for their chief one Wingbolu a smelter 
of iron. 

The Ife nature and spirit of the times soon became evident. 
Notwithstanding the oath, a pretext was soon found for a 
civil war against their king, but he was too strong for them; he 
defeated and suppressed all the refractory chiefs among them. 

After the civil fight the Owoni called Wingbolu and asked him 
why he and the Oyos were neutral at the time of the insurrection. 
He replied boldly " Had I been invited by your opponents, does 
your majesty think yoa would have proved victorious ? Or if 
you had invited us, would not 3''our victory have been more 
complete? " 

Thinking over these significant remarks the Owoni who had 
some strains of Oyo blood in him was resolved not on exter- 
minating these Oyos as some others would have done but rather 
on emancipating them. He appointed them a settlement outside 
the walls of the city deputing one Adewgro to accompany Win- 
gbolu to the site and mark out the settlement. On the Oyo chief 
himself he conferred the title of Ogunsuwa signifying One whom 
Ogun (the god of war) has blessed with a fortune. That has 
become the title of all the chief rulers of Modakeke to this day. 

By a royal proclamation all Oyos were to leave the city of He 
Ife for the new settlement, and accordingly the settlement grew 
rapidly from new arrivals every day. The new settlement was 
named Modakeke, a term said to have been derived from the cry of 
a nest of storks on a large tree near the site. 

Modakeke was first built in a circular form as a single vast 
compound of about 2 miles in circumference ; the enclosed area 
was left covered with trees and high grass, each individual clearing 
out a small space in front of his dwelling. This was done for the 
sake of mutual protection as no one need to go out of the com- 


pound for sticks or thatch for roofing purposes. Modakeke was 
in 1884 a town of between 50,000 and 60,000 inhabitants. 

By dwelling in a separate settlement it was not meant that they 
should hold themselves independent of the Ifes. They were still 
loyal to the Ow6ni. 

A sedition was again raised for the purpose of murdering the 
Ow6ni for emancipating the Oyos, but he receiving help from the 
new settlement crushed the rising completely, and all the ring- 
leaders were put to death among whom was the son of a rich lady 
called Olugboka. 

As Ab'ewe-ila could not be murdered by force of arms, the 
Ifes finally succeeded in poisoning him and the first intimation 
the settlers had of the death of their benefactor was from the 
street song of the Ifes " They are deprived of their King, woe 
betide the Oyos." 

The late king was denied a royal funeral, and was buried like any 
common man and all his slaves were seized b}- the Ifes, but the 
Oyos amongst them went over in a body to the new settlement. 

Modakeke was soon besieged by the Ifes, but they were repulsed 
with a heavy loss in dead, wounded, and captives. The Modakekes 
captured aboat 12070 of them, but they had not the heart to 
enslave their former masters and benefactors and hence all were 
released. Thirty days after this defeat, one Ogunmakin an Ife 
chief receiving re-inforcement from Oke Igbo, Modakeke was 
again attacked. The Ifes were again badly beaten and 
they were pursued right home, and the city of Ife taken 
by an assault. The victors now ventured to sell their Ife captives 
as slaves, but reserved of their women-folks for wives. The Ifes 
escaped to Isoya, Oke Igbo, and other Ife towns where they 
remained for many years till about the year 1854 when the Ibadans 
were engaged in the Ijebu Ere war. Chief Ogunmola of Ibadan 
sent messengers from the camp to negotiate terms ot peace and 
bring the Ifes home, as it would never do to let the cradle of the 
race remain perpetually in desolation and the ancestral gods not 
worshipped. Kubusi was the then reigning Owoni who could no 
longer remain in exile, but promised that if allowed to return 
home the past would be obliterated ; no restitution of anything 
will be demanded of the Modakekes, not even of their wives who 
might have been appropriated. 

But no sooner did they return home than all the Ife women 
deserted their present husbands with all the children born to them 
and returned to He Ifg. 

Notwithstanding their present relations the Modakekes still 
acknowledged the supremacy of the Ifes and by mutual arrange- 


ment they had their representatives in the If e assembly. Thus they 
Uved together harmoniously till the year 1878 when the whole of 
the Yoruba country was again embroiled in war, and the latent 
animosity broke out afresh in an open fight, and the If§s were 
again worsted as we shall noti e hereafter. 

Chapter XI 

§ I. The Destruction of the Epos and the Death of 
Ojo Amepo 

Notwithstanding the Fulani devastations, there were not 
wanting still among the Yorubas powerful generals, who could 
successfully oppose them if only they would act together. One 
such was Ojo Amepo the Kakanfo. 

Ojo Amepo was one of the generals of the late Kakanfo Afonja 
of Ilorin ; he inherited the lion-like spirit of his chief. After the 
fall of Afonja he resided at Akese, where he found employment 
for his enterprising spirit in waging intestine wars with the Epos, 
and became a great man and a terror in that district. Thus Ojo 
Amepo usurped the prerogatives of the AlAfin in that district. 
He took Iware, Okiti, Ajerun, Koto, Ajabe, towns near Ijaye, and 
he assumed the title of Kakanfo in opposition to Edun of Gbogun 
whom, however, he survived (as Edun himself formerly did in 
opposition to Toyeje of Ogbomoso) showing the state of anarchy 
in the kingdom as there can be but one Kakanfo at a time. 

Amepo was a good horseman and an intrepid warrior. Ago 
was one of the towns in the Epo district. Oja the founder perished 
at the Kanla war as we have already noticed, and the only man 
of power then in that town was Prince Atiba formerly of Gudugbu, 
and he was in friendly alliance with the Ilgrins and abetted them, 
when they were resolved upon subjugating the Epds. 

Chiefs Amepo, Salako, and Ojomgbodu were opposed to the 
Ilorins, and the latter soon found a pretext to wage war upon 
them and to destroy their towns. 

The Ilorins encamped at Ago Oja against Ojomgbodu which 
was about 6 or 7 miles distant. The Kakanfo at Akesfe sent Dado 
his commander-in-chief at the head of a detachment to reinforce 
the beleaguered town ; associated with Dado were Adekambi, 
Soso, Dese and Lagbayi, all distinguished men. A portion of the 
Ilorin army was encamped against Wonworo at the same time, and 
the Kakanfo also sent Ayo another distinguished war chief to 
protect the place. Both these places were obstinately defended 
and, but for the tragedy which befell the Kakanfo at home, they 
might have held out longer even if they could not repel the enemy 



Amepo the Kakanfo being anxious about his men when he 
heard no news from the seat of war, rode out one morning dressed 
in his red uniform with only about 20 boys as his attendants. 
He took the path leading to the seat of conflict to listen if per- 
chance he would hear the sound of musketry showing that his people 
were still holding out and the town not yet taken. 

He dismounted under a large tree in the fields, and most un- 
fortunately for him was discovered from afar by a company 
of Ilorin horsemen, who had made excursion into the W6nw6ro 
farms, and were returning to their camp at Ago-Oja by way of 
Akesfe. He found himself in a predicament all too late, his body 
guards were, alas ! too young to defend him, and his corpulency 
prevented him from springing at once upon his horse and making 
good his escape. So he was slain there under the tree, and his head 
and hands were cut off and carried in triumph to the camp before 
Ojomgbodu. But before doing so, the Ilorin horsemen rode back 
to Akese and called upon the town to surrender under threats of 
immediace destruction. The Kakanfo being slain, and the 
war-chiefs absent at Ojomgbodu, the town Akese surrendered at 
discretion ; but as soon as the horsemen were gone the inhabitants 
packed up and deserted the town. 

The Kakanfo s army at Ojomgbodu of course did not know 
of the tragedy that had befallen their master at home until they 
were informed the next morning in the battlefield by the Ilorin 
horsemen taunting them. To confirm the truth of their statement, 
Amepo s speckled hand which was cut of! was thrown to them 
within the town wall for identification. " Know ye whose hand 
that was ? We have slain your master ! What is the use of further 
fighting ? Woe betide you if you do not surrender at once." 
The men were panic stricken and would have fled there and then 
but for the presence of mind and brave speech of Dado the com- 
mander-in-chief. He said to them " The death of our master is 
no reason why we should give way, let us fight like brave men and 
not show the white feather." Turning to the besiegers he said 
" We are here to defend the town not our master whose misfortune 
is only an incident though a lamentable one. You prepare yourself 
for a battle to-morrow, for you shall receive such a severe encounter 
as you have never experienced before ; you will then know how 
brave men can resent treachery." This speech created order 
among the troops and the Ojomgbodu people also were re-assured ; 
but it was only a ruse in order to make good their escape, for by 
daybreak, before the Ojomgbodu people knew that they were 
deserted. Dado had retreated with his army in good order and 
escaped to Ika-Odan. 

236 the history of the yorubas 

§ 2. The Occupation of Ijaye and end of Dado 

Ika-Odan now became the home of the flower of the army 
from the Oyo provinces. The leaders here were the only brave 
generals who would not submit under the yoke of the Ilorins, 
and who held out still until such time that fortune would veer 
round to their side. 

These refugees soon became masters of the town, the wives and 
daughters of their hosts became theirs, and the hosts themselves 
practically their menials. 

Everything at home and in the farms was soon devoured as they 
lived only by foraging. When nothing remained in the Ika-Odan 
farms they extended their operations into the Ijaye farms. When 
the I j ayes could no longer endure it, and their farms were nearly 
all eaten up they attacked these marauders ; a skirmish ensued 
and the foragers finding the men of Ijaye too strong for them, sent 
home for re-inforcements. 

Kurumi's advice was for conciliatory measures, considering 
that these proceedings were rather hard on the people, who 
really could not help attacking the foragers. But Dado their 
leader was for opposition. " Cowards " said he, " what can the 
I j ayes do ? " Saying this, he hastily put on his armour and rushed 
on to the scene of the conflict. He was allowed to go on alone, 
none of the other war-chiefs followed him. 

The foragers seeing their leader coming were inspirited and 
put forth more efforts, and he led them to victory. They drove 
the Ijayes home, and pressed so closely on their heels that the latter 
could not rally to defend the town, but deserted it and fled on, till 
they escaped to Ika-Igbo. Ijaye now fell into the possession of the 
assailants who did not fire it, but simply occupied it as was done 
at Ibadan, each one taking possession of the finest compound he 
could get. 

Dado now sent to invite Kurumi and the rest of the war-chiefs 
at Ika-Odan, and they came and took possession of Ijaye. Thus 
that town passed out of the hands of the Egbas, and became an 
Oyg town to this day. 

At a special meeting convened to consider their future course 
it was resolved that they should make Ijaye their home at least 
for the present until they could see a brighter prospect of dis- 
lodging the Fulanis from Ilorin and then return to their own 
homes. They therefore took possession of the lands and farms 
along with the houses and proceeded to so.v the farms, lest 
famine should follow the present abundance. Thus they became 
proprietors of houses, lands and farms not their own. The fields 


were extensively cultivated, all the war-chiefs with the sole exception 
of Dado their leader, paid great attention to agriculture, going to 
their farms daily. 

Dado was of a more restless spirit and was indifferent to 
agriculture. Nothing delighted him more than the rattle of 
musketry, for he was never in his element unless he was at the 
head of his army directing a battle. He often frightened his 
people home from farm, mistaking the volleys Dado ordered 
to be fired for an attack on the town. The other war-chiets 
petitioned him again and again not to cause such an alarm, but 
he usually replied in a haughty manner: " Cowards, were I such 
as you I could not have brought you here, when yoi" wished to 
negotiate peace with the aborigines." 

Casting this at their teeth day by day, his colleagues felt hurt 
but were afraid of opposing him till one day Kurumi summoned 
up courage to do so and was backed by the other chiefs, a civil 
war ensued and Dado was expelled the town. 

Dado's Later Career. — To trace the subsequent career of Dado 
we have to anticipate some events of history yet to be narrated. 

Dado was bold and brave as a warrior, but in his disposition, he 
was irritable and very proud. On his expulsion from Ijaye he went 
first to Iware, and from thence he crossed the river Ogun going 
to a small town near Isede called Tobalogbo. He encamped 
outside the town walls with his few followers, and sent to apprise 
the Bale of his arrival. His fame as a great warrior having 
travelled far and wide the Tobalogbo treated him with every mark 
of respect, supplying him and his followers with provisions, and on 
the next day he came out with his chiefs to pay his respects to 
the fallen general. 

Whilst the Bale and chiefs prostrated before this monster 
in the act of salutation, he ordered them all to be decapitated ! 
He and his men then rushed into the town and captured it. He 
cared only for the booty and not for making it his residence ; 
he, therefore, passed on to the town of Aborerin near Iberekodo 
and there he built a house and resided with his family and about 
400 men. Subsequently he left Aborerin with his family and 
belongings and wishing to try the fortunes of war once more, 
he joined an Ibadan contingent under Osun the chief of the Ibadan 
cavalry in an expedition in aid of Oniyefun. When Osun fell in 
battle, and Oniyefun was reduced by the Egbas, he narrowly 
escaped with a handful of his men, leaving his wives and children 
at the mercy of the conquerors and escaped to Ijaka. Divine 
retribution now began to overtake him for his cruelties and for his 
heartless treachery and cold-blooded murder of Tobalogbo and 


his chiefs. He lost everything at Oiiiyefun, and from that time 
he went up and down the country as a " fugitive and vagabond." 
After some time spent at Ijaka he came to Ibadan ; he accompanied 
Lakanle the Ibadan commander-in-chief to the Arakanga war 
(to be related afterwards) ; on their leturn he went to Ilorin and 
returned again to Ibadan. Fortune was altogether against 
him He outlived his fame and glory, suffered from penury 
and want and was reduced to a nonentity. 

After Lakanle's death, having no one to befriend him at Ibadan 
again, he went once more to Ijaye. Kurumi was then at the zenith 
of his glory, with the old animosity against Dado still rankhng 
in his breast. He sent for him one day and as Dado lay prostrate 
before him Kurumi ordered him to be decapitated ! 

Thus the same measure was meted to him, as he once meted 
to his hosts of Tobalogbo. 

The Occupation of Abento, — Kuriimi of Ijaye was an arbitrary 
and domineering chief, and moreover tribal jealousies and clanship 
were rife among the chiefs who now occupy Ijaye as they were 
from different provinces and townships brought together here 
by one common calamity. Kurumi and the Ikoyi chiefs with 
him were from the MetropoHtan province. 

The notable war-chiefs from Akes^ were : — Ay6, Adekambi, 
Ajadi, Sukotg, Bankgle, Lahkn, Aruno-agba-ni-igbe and Oluwol^. 
These chiefs from the Ep6 districts could not endure the hauteur 
of Kurumi who was backed up by the Ikoyi chiefs. They hold 
themselves superior to the Akes^ chiefs. Ikoyi was indeed the 
premier provincial city next to the Metropolis, and the Onikoyi 
the AlAfin's viceregent, but these chiets seem to have forgotten 
that they were no longer worthy of the honour they now claimed 
since they have become disloyal to the Crown. 

However, in order to avoid a civil war from constant 
friction the above-mentioned Akes| chiefs with their men left 
Ijaye in a body and retired to Abem6, a town 12 miles distant 
(midway between Ijaye and the present Oyg) under the leadership 
of chief Ay6. We now have two rival towns, Ijaye occupied 
by the Ikoyi chiefs, and Abemo by the Akes^ chiefs, 

§ 3. How Ibadan Finally Became a Yoruba Town 

The Fall of Maye 

The marauders who settled at Ibadan after the fall of Ooriin 
and all the Gbagura towns (as we have mentioned above) com- 
prised the Ife, Ijebu, Qyo, and Egba chiefs with their men. Chief 
Maye an Ife was the acknowledged head of them all. He was a 


proud, haughty, and irritable man, overbearing to all ; Lakanl§ 
the Oyo leader (as above mentioned) was the only man who could 
speak when May§ was in a rage. The Ifes generally regarded the 
Oyos of the settlement as slaves because they were homeless 
refugees ; they treated them httle better than they would dogs. 
Maye handled them with an iron hand, and denied them every 
security either of their goods or of their lives ; they were oppressed 
and beaten with impunity. 

The Oyos, groaning under this yoke of bondage sought every 
opportunity for lifting up their heads, but the very name of 
Maye inspired such a dread in all, that no plan could be acted 
upon. The bards sang of him as the greatest general of the day, 
a man who commanded an amount of dread and respect, un- 
surpassed by any, etc. But, like Napoleon after Moscow, " From 
the highest to the lowest, there is but one ^tep ;" so it was with 
Maye. His fall was sudden and cornplete. 

Two neighbours were quarrelling over a piece of ground used in 
common as a dunghill, one was an Own man, Amejiogbe by name, 
one of May§'s soldiers, the other an Oyo man ; both of them private 
soldiers. But as Oyos were treated like dogs, when Maye came out, 
he asked no questions about the case, but sided with the Owu 
man and simply drew his sword and cut off the headof the Oyoman. 
Instantly a hue and cry was raised, and an alarm given that Maye 
was putting all Oyos to death ! The Oyos became desperate, and 
all flew to arms. Maye was taken aback with surprise to see them 
making a dead set at him. They refused to hear his plea for self- 
defence, and would not allow him to re-enter his house ; he was 
beset on every side and driven out of the town. He escaped on 
foot by the way of the present Abeokuta gate and crossed the river 
Onk followed by some of the If e chiefs e.g. Aponju-olosun, Aregbe 
Deriokun, etc. 

After this, the Oyo chiefs began to feel ill at ease, and were the 
first to offer him terms of reconciliation. They knew his fame 
and valour and were trembling for the possible consequences. 
In the afternoon an embassy was sent to him with a humble 
apology and petition saying " Our Father should return home, our 
Father should not spend the night in the bush." He answered 
the messengers roughly and swore by the gods that he would surely 
destroy the town and that before long. 

The next day higher grades of ambassadors were sent to sue 
for peace, and with them large baskets of provisions for himself 
and his followers because "Father must be hungry since yesterday." 
These were not even allowed to approach his camp, and some of 
the Oyos who accompanied him as personal friends sent privately 


to apprise their country-men that it was of no use their waiting 
for an answer, the great chief would neither hsten to them nor even 
grant them an interview and it was in vain to hope that he would 
agree to return to Ibadan. 

The ambassadors had to return home to report their ill success 
but they left behind all the provisions they took with them in 
hopes that his followers would take them away after they had gone. 

The chiefs were much disappointed at this turn of affairs and 
blamed themselves for their rashness and instructed the ambas- 
sadors not to wait for further orders but that by early dawn they 
should proceed once more and offer their humble submission and say 
that they would agree to any fine he would be pleased to impose 
upon them as a condition of his returning home. 

In the meantime a meeting was convened to consider what 
further steps should be taken ; they decided to levy a tax upon all 
the people in order to raise money for the fine. But the messengers 
soon returned with a distressing report : — " The master's camp, 
has been broken up, the food they carried the previous day was 
left untouched, for hawks, crows, and vultures to feed upon, nor 
could anyone tell his route or destination ! " 

It was surmised that he probably went to join the Egbas at 
Abeokuta to raise an army to fight them : but a few days after, a 
farmer reported that he saw a broad path leading to Idomapa 
in the south. Maye then was the guest of Oluwol^ of Idomapa, 
but the people of Erumu invited him to Erumu, offering him their 
support and friendship because his calamity was caused by his 
espousing the cause of an Owu man. We have seen above, that 
Erumu was the chief vassal state of Owu and that to this place the 
Olowu and his people escaped when the city of Owu was taken. 

They were determined to avenge Maye's wrongs, and with such 
a distinguished commander on their side, they hoped to be able to 
annihilate these Oyo marauders, the principal agents in the 
destruction of their capital city. 

Before they were prepared to lay siege to Ibadan, the Erumu 
people and their guests began at once to make predatory incursions 
into the Ibadan farms, kidnapping also the caravans with corn 
and other foodstuffs from Ikir^ so as to cut off theii food supplies 
and distress them by starvation before reducing them by war at 
the ensuing dry season. 

This state of things continued nearly a whole year and during 
that time vast preparations were made to crush Ibadan by an 
overwhelming force. An alliance was formed with the Ife towns 
of Ikir^, Apomu, Ipetumodu and other towns in their neighbour- 
hood, and a large army was raised against Ibadan. The Egbas 


also were invited as allies, as all have their grievances to avenge 
on the new occupants of Ibadan. Two famous commanders 
Degesin and Ogini led the Egba contingents ; they marched through 
the Ibadan farms in the south to join the main army at Idomapa. 
The Gbanamu War. The Ibadan chiefs met this overwhelming 
force with courage and determination bat the odds were against 
them ; at every battle in spite of all they could do, they lost 
ground and the assailants advanced to within a mile or a mile and 
a half of the town. The Ibadans in their extremity were obhged 
to ask help from Kurumi of Ijaye who readily responded to their 
call. They were all one people whom a common calamity compelled 
to these parts, and they had to make a new home and defend it. 
Kurumi arrived at Ibadan on a Friday, but as Fridays were con- 
sidered inauspicious days the Ibadan chiefs suggested that the 
fight should be postponed till the next day. Kurumi repHed, 
"It is true Fridays are inauspicious, but it is only so to aggressors, 
not to defenders of hearth and home." The last decisive battle 
then was fought on that day. It was a bloody day. Equal 
courage and valour were displayed on both sides, but in the end, 
though outnumbered by far, the superior military skill of Kurumi 
and the Ibadans won the day. For the Ibadans it was a life and 
death struggle, and because it was mostly a hand to hand fight in 
which swordsmen proved themselves a match for those with fire- 
arms the battle was named " Gba'namu " (grasping fire). Rushing 
upon their assailants sword in hand and grasping the barrel of the 
gun, the Ibadans averted the fatal discharge of the weapon while 
using their swords and cutlasses with effect. Thus the Ife, Owu, and 
Egba alUes were completely routed. Several of their leaders were 
made prisoners and put to death. Maye the great commander was 
taken prisoner by a common soldier, and as he was being led to the 
town all the war-chiefs refused to see his face. 

It is a common belief amongst warriors in this country that any 
war-chief, who ordered a brother war-chief, his equal in arms, to 
execution, will surely meet with the same fate at no distant date. 
Therefore, although the whole of the chiefs desired his execution 
yet no one was bold enough to show his face and order it, and take 
upon himself the responsibility for what all desired. Both the 
captor and the captive fully understood the import of the phrase 
" Let him not see my face." It meant his death warrant. Maye 
therefore cried out : " E m.a da a se, E fi oju mi kan alagbk ! E 
ma da a se, E fi oju mi kan Lakanle. (Do not take the responsi- 
biUty, bring me before a chief ; do not take the responsibiUty, 
bring me before Lakanle) . But all in vain, his fate had been sealed 
by the chiefs declining to see him, and so the great Maye was 


beheaded by a common soldier. Degesin and Ogini the Egba 
commanders also shared his fate. 

Chief Kurumi claimed the honour of the victory and hence his 
bards sang to his praise "Opa Maye, o pa Ogini, O pa Degesin, 
O fi oko ti Ife laiyk " (he slew Maj^e, he slew Ogini and Degesin 
and thrust his spear into the bi easts of the Ifes). 

By this victory the remnant of the Oyo refugees was saved. 

The Erumu War 

The victors followed up their victory and encamped against 
Erumu. Reinforcements came for them from Iwo, Ede, Apomu 
and other places ; the Oyo refugees in those parts joining their 
brethren at the siege of Erumu so that the doomed town was 
hemmed in on every side : indeed they had to fight from within 
their walls. As the besiegers could neither force the gates nor 
scale or beat down the walls, they were content to reduce the 
town by famine. The most disgusting creatures were used for 
food, and even greedily devoured in order to sustain life ! It 
passed into a proverb " When the price of a frog came to 120 
cowries then Erumu was taken." 

The siege of Erumu recalled that of Oke Suna in the fight 
between Solagberu and Abudusalami. 

The following anecdotes illustrative of the horrors of the siege 
of Erumu were told by eye-witnesses : — 

Corn planted within the walls of the town wanted but a few 
weeks for ripening when the famished inhabitants could no longer 
wait for a full corn, everyone helping himself not only to the 
immature corn but also the corn-stalks. It was so much relished 
that one of them was heard to say that he did not know before 
that corn stalks were so delicious and that henceforth he would 
ever be using it as an article of food. 

Another reported the case of a good-looking and well-to-do 
young woman, a snuff seller, at Erumu. Before the war broke 
out, her beauty and style always attracted young men to her side 
in the shed where she was grinding and retailing snuff. Her stall 
was so clean and so well-poUshed that they required no mats to sit 
upon, they would just squat on the ground about her. This 
well-to-do woman was so famished that she died of starvation 
at her stall in the open thoroughfare, and of all her admirers not 
one was found to do her the honour of a burial ! 

Again, another eye-witness among the besiegers related that 
whilst bathing in a stream which flowed through the town to the 
camp, he often saw myriads of maggots which he could not account 
for as if the water bred them, but when Erumu was taken he saw 


hundreds of putrefying bodies in the stream within the town and 
this accounted for the maggots he saw in such abundance lower 
down as the stream flowed by the camp. 

On the town being taken the Oluroko (or king) of Erumu and 
the king of Idomapa were caught and slain. Also the Olowu 
was now caught who (cLs was related above) escaped thither when 
the city of Owu was destroyed. Now, he was a provincial King 
of great importance, a real crowned head, and his case caused the 
victors some embarrassment. No pure Yoruba would venture 
to lay hands on a king even if worthy of death ; in such an event 
the king would simply be told that he was rejected and, noblesse 
oblige, he would commit suicide by poison. 

The Olowu, although now a prisoner of war, was regarded 
with so much reverence that none of the chiefs would dare order 
his execution, and yet they could not keep him nor would they 
let him go. His death was compassed in a diplomatic manner. 

The conquerors pretended to be sending him to the Ow6ni 
ol Ife, who alone may be regarded as his peer in this part of the 
country, and he was to be accompanied by one of his own slaves 
as a personal attendant and by some messengers to the Owgni 
as his escort. But the slave, who was supplied with a loaded gun 
as his master's bodyguard, had been privately instructed that at 
a given signal from the escort he was to shoot his master dead, 
and that he would be granted his freedom and loaded with riches 
as well. Thus they proceeded on their way until they came to 
the bank of the river Osun when the signal was given and the slave 
shot his master dead on the spot ! These "messengers" now set 
up a hue and cry of horror and surprise: " WTiat ! You slave ! How 
dare you kill your royal master ? Death is even too good for you." 
And in order to exonerate themselves of all complicity in the 
matter, they set upon the poor slave attacking him on all sides 
and clubbed him to death saying " The murder of the king must 
be avenged." They then dammed up the river in its course and 
dug the king's grave deep in the bed of it, and there they buried the 
corpse whilst uttering this disclaimer : — 

" O King, we have no hands in your cruel murder. The onus 
of it rests with your slave and we have avenged you by putting 
him to death, and he is to be your attendant in the other world." 

They then allowed the river to flow on in its channel over the 
grave. Burying the king in the bed of the river was regai ded as an 
expiation made for his murder, because they were conscious of guilt 
although they attributed the act to the slave. With such reverence 
and sanctity was the person of a king regarded. The divine 
right of kings is an article of belief among the Yorubas. 


Such was the end of the last king of the famous city of Owu, 
The title is continued by a representative of the family at Abeokuta. 

§ 4. The Settlement of Ibadan 

After the fall of Erumu the war chiefs returned to Ibadan and 
the rest of the people who joined the war as volunteers returned 
to their respective homes. It was not till this time that Ibadan 
was peopled by Oyos chiefly. Everyone of these war-chiefs 
entered the allied army of Ife and Ijebu at Idi Ogugun as a private 
volunteer, but they soon showed their capabilities in the various 
wars. Oppressed and enslaved by the Ifes, scorned by the Ijebus, 
in pure self-defence they banded themselves together under a 
leader for mutual protection and notwithstanding the great dis- 
advantage under which they were placed, they vindicated their 
superiority and at last obtained the ascendancy in the town. 

Under such circumstances did the Oyos become masters of 
Ibadan. Hence the allegation that it was they who expelled the 
Egbas from their original home and took possession of the same is 
wholly inaccurate, and the bad feeling which this impression has 
created and perpetuated between the two peoples unto this day 
is hereby shown to be groundless. 

Ibadan then consisted of the central market and about half, 
a mile of houses around. The town wall was where the principal 
mosque now stands. 

Hitherto Ibadan has been occupied as a miUtary headquarter 
for marauding and other expeditions, but after this war, at a public 
meeting held to consider their future course, it was resolved that 
as they now intend to make this place their home they should 
arrange for a settled government and take titles. Oluyedun came 
first. He was the son of the late Afonja of Ilorin, and as such, 
the scion of a noble house. He was honoured and respected by all. 
He might have been the Bale, but he preferred to adopt his father's 
title of Kakanfo and it was conceded him, not for his valour, but 
for his age and dignity, being a survivor of the men of the preceding 

Next came Lakanle " the bravest of the brave." He might 
have taken the title of Balogun or commander-in-chief, as he had 
hitherto been their principal leader in M'ar, but Kakanfo being 
a miUtary title, that of Balogun would be superfluous. He then 
became the Otun Kakanfo and Oluyole the Osi Kakanfo. 

The others were : Adelakun the Ekerin (fourth), Olumaiye the 
Ekarun (fifth) Abitiko Ekefa (sixth) Keiiihe Are Ah ese. To Osun 
was the honour given to confer these titles, and he in turn was 
created the Sarumi (chief of the cavalry). Only a single Ife 


chief remained at Ibadan and that was Labosinde, and even he 
(as was mentioned above) had Oyg blood in his veins through 
his mother. He was very gentle, good-natured and fatherly to 
all. Even during the days of Maye the Oyo chiefs had an 
affection and great respect for liim as a father. At the expulsion 
of Maye when the other Ife chiefs joined him, he took no sides and 
hence he was allowed to remain. After Maye's tall he did not 
aspire to the leadership of the people, preferring private life to 
the responsibilities of government. He was a man who loved 
peace; he would never carry arms nor allow any to be carried before 
him even in those turbulent days, except in the battlefield. A 
bundle of whips was all usually carried before him, as used to be 
done before the Roman Tribunes of old, and with this token of 
authority he was able several times to disband men in arms 
and put an end to civil fights. The combatants as soon as 
they saw the bundle of whips coming would cease firing, 
saying to one another '!Babambo " " baba mb^" (father is 
coming, father is coming). His title now is Baba I sale i.e. chief 
adviser, lit father underneath (for counsel). 

It will be noticed that (except this last) all the principal titles 
were military titles. Ibadan has kept that up unto this day. 

Although they seemed to be now settled, yet they really lived 
by plunder and rapine. A single stalk of corn could scarcely 
be seen in an Ibadan farm in the days of Maye, and although 
Lakanle encouraged husbandry, yet the people were so much 
given to slave hunting that they could not grow corn enough 
for home consumption. The women of those days were as hardy 
as the men, and often went in a body — as caravans — to Ikird and 
Apomu for corn and other foodstuffs although the road was unsafe 
from kidnappers. They supplied the town with food whilst the 
men were engaged in slave himting. One company returning 
would meet another just going out, and often, an unsuccessful 
individual returning would go back with the outgoing company to 
try another chance without first reaching home. Ill-luck of one 
did not prevent another company venturing out. 

At home violence, oppression, robbery, man-stealing were 
the order of the day. A special gag was invented for the mouth 
of human beings to prevent any one stolen from crying out and 
being discovered by his friends. No one dared go out at dusk for the 
men-stealers were out already prowling about for their prey. 
Thus even the great Maye was once stolen on going out 
one night. He offered no resistance but went quietly with 
the man-stealer, who, on reaching home, called for a light to 
inspect his victim. Finding to his dismay that it was the great 


chief Maye himself, he nearly died of fright. Quaking and trem- 
bling he prostrated at his feet and begged for his life. So bad were 
those days at Ibadan and so callous had the people become that 
if a woman or a child was heard to cry out "Egbkmi, won mu mi 
o " (O help me, I am taken) the usual answer from indoors was 
" Maha ba a lo " (you can go along with him). The moral and 
social atmosphere of such a place as has been described could 
easily be imagined. Yet they were destined by God to play a most 
important part in the history of the Yorubas, to break the Fulani 
yoke and save the rest of the country from foreign domination ; 
in short to be a protector as well as a scourge in the land as we 
shall see hereafter. 

A nation born under such strenuous circumstances cannot but 
leave the impress of its hardihood and warlike spirit on succeeding 
generations, and so we find it at Ibadan to this day. It being 
the Divine prerogative to use whomsoever He will to effect His 
Divine purpose, God uses a certain nation or individual as the 
scourge of another nation and when His purposes are fulfilled He 
casts the scourge away. 

Chapter XII 


§ I. The Evacuation of Apomu 

We have seen above that the people ot Apomu being Ifes alHed 
themselves with Maye at the Gbanamu war, hence after the 
destruction of Erunmu, they were afraid that the next wave will 
overwhelm themselves. They theiefore sent an Oyo resident at 
Apomu, chief Agbeni by name, to encamp on the further side of 
the river Osun as an outpost, to watch and report upon the move- 
ments of the Ibadan army. 

But the Ibadans were not meditating any revenge on them; 
yet they were so ill at ease that they would not even wait for a 
report from their outpost, but one chiet after another, one master 
of a large compound after another deserted the town for Ipetumodu 
till only the Oyo lefugees remained at Apomu. 

At Ipetumodu they were however restless ; it seemed unreason- 
able that they should be famishing in another town when food 
could be obtained in their own farms ; therefore bands of pillagers 
and kidnappers issued daily from Ipetumodu to the Apomu 
farms destroying whatever they could not carry away. They also 
grew suspicious of Agbeni and sent a strong force to drive him 
away from the post where they had located him. But Agbeni 
was determined to maintain hisground, and he therefore despatched 
messengers to Ibadan to ask foi help. Only one desperate battle 
was fought between them, and the Ipetumodu men apprehending 
danger to themselves if they should wait to offer a second, as by 
that time reinforcements from Ibadan might have come, they 
retreated hastily home. 

The Ibadan army arrived too late and were disappointed to 
find the Apomu army gone ; they were loth to return home 
empty handed as they lived by plunder, they therefore began to 
loot the houses of the residents at Apomu. But these were their 
kinsmen, the Oyo refugees who were left behind by the townsmen, 
and nearly every one of them saw a friend or a relative whom he 
was in duty bound to protect from violence and robbery. These 
relatives went over to them and with them to Ibadan. Lakanl^ 
their leader took away all his, and his friend Agbeni came over also 



with him. Lanase went over with all his belongings to Osun the 
chief of the cavalry, and so Apomu became deserted. 

Agbeni was located in Lakanle's farm and the site has since 
been included in the overgrown town and known as Agbeni 's 
quarter to this day with a market in front ot his house. Chief 
Agbeni survived Lakanle and all his contemporaries and died 
at a good old age in May i860. 

Thus the Oyo refugees at Apomu were merged with the Ibadan 
settlers, and helped to swell the population of that important 

The Ipetumodu and Owiwi Wars about A.D. 1819 

The Apomu and Ipetumodu people having drawn attention 
to themselves, after a short respite the restless Ibadan chiefs 
declared war against Ipetumodu for allying with Apomu to 
kidnap the Ibadan caravans, who went to buy corn at Ikire, Iwo, 
He Igbo before the Erumu wars. Any pretext, however flimsy, 
would do when they were on mischief bent. 

It was just at this time that the Ijebus declared war against 
Abeokuta, and sought the alliance of the Ibadans. But they 
could not send them adequate help and advised the Ijebus rather 
to wait a while and let them get Ipetumodu off their hands. 
But the Ijebus would not wait, the Ibadans, therefore had to 
send them a small contingent under one Olugun^. The last 
decisive battle between the Ijebus and the Egbas was the cele- 
brated battle of Owiwi (a stream so called) where the Ijebus 
were sorely defeated; they lost all their principal fighting men and 
their power was completely crushed ! Olugunk with his small force 
escaped to Oniyefun a town on the right bank of the river Ogun 
where he remained for a long time, apparently seeking for an 
opportunity to return home. 

The Ibadans on the other hand were successful in their own 
expedition, Ipetumodu was taken and those who escaped fled to 
He Ife their chief town. 

§ 2. The Fall of Ilaro and Ijana 

During the siege at Owiwi the Ijebus sought and obtained 
the alhance of the Egbaluwe kings. Abinuwggbo the Onisare 
of Ijana sent his forces under the command of two of his war-chiefs 
Lapala and Ajise ; the only war-chief remaining at home was Akere 
the Areagoro. Lapala fell in battle and the command devolved 
upon Ajige alone. 

The Ilaros sent no re-inforcement because of a great disaffection 
among the people towards their Olu on account of his t5n-annies. 


For a small matter which he might very well pass over, he would 
impose exorbitant fines, hence the affection ot his people was 
alienated from him and they were seeking an opportunity for 
his overthrow. His was a long reign, for this age of anarchy, and 
he did not retire to Oyo after three years, like his predecessors, 
to spend the rest of his days there as was customary. He 
became lame on both his feet, from poison by his people as was 

A private message was sent to the Egbas by the people inviting 
them to come and rid them of their tyrant, thinking they would 
come and simply remove the Olu and leave them in peace. The 
Egbas thereupon sent from Owiwi a detachment of 134 men 
under chief Angba who entered Ilaro without opposition, fired 
it, and began to kill and plunder indiscriminately ! As the Egbas 
cared more for booty than for captives the Olu (their principal 
objective) had an opportunity for making his escape to Ifoin, 
being borne on a litter by his slaves, while most of the Ilaro people 
escaped to Ijana. A bride was said to be so frightened by the hasty 
flight that she fell down dead at the gate of Ijana, and was buried 
behind the house of one Tagi the gate-keeper. 

They had scarcely had breathing time here when news came 
that the Egbas had gained a victory over the Ijebus at Owiwi 
and a rumour gained ground that they were coming to take 
vengeance on the 'Luwes of Ijana for allying themselves with the 
I j ebus. The consternation became general when Ajise the surviving 
war-chief arrived home. Neither the Ilaro refugees, nor the Ijana 
people themselves could stay in the town any longer, all sought 
safety in flight, and so Ij§,na was deserted. The flight took place 
on a dark and stormy night, and hundreds of people were groping 
in darkness trying to find the way to the town gate. Fortunately 
it was only a rumour or the Egbas might have met them within 
the town for at break of day the dawn found them at Dekun's 
quarters late of Ijana. 

Ak^re the Areagoro the only war-chief left at home instead of 
preparing for the defence of the town deluded the people by having 
three lighted lamps burning at the three entrances to his house 
making it appear as if he was still at home whereas he had already 

An incident of interest occurred during this flight. A child 
of about 3 years of age was found the next day at Afehinte weeping, 
its mother having disencumbered herself ot it in her flight. A 
kind-hearted man Ajayi by name took it up from pity and carried 
it in his arms wherever he went. They did not meet the Areagoro 
at Refvu-efu but joined him at Osoro ; there the heartless mother 


seeing the child with Ajayi, claimed it but Ajayi refused to give it 
up till it was duly ransomed. 

The refugees left Osoro for Ifoin where they met the 01 u and 
here they were resolved to wait and offer some resistance in case 
of an attack, as they were afraid to proceed to Porto Novo. The 
Olu, however, left Ifoin for Itoho his maternal town, where he 
would wish to die ; here Sodeke with an Egba army met him and 
he was taken with his family and slain. One Okete the executioner 
carried the head about at Refurefu for money ; at the gate of 
whomsoever the Olu's head was placed Okete received 3 heads of 
cowries before removing it. It was brought to Abeokuta and was 
buried at the threshold of the main entrance to Sodeke's house. 

vSodeke took Ayawo the Olu's daughter to wife, but she had 
no child by him. After Sodeke's death she was " inherited " 
by Somoye, who subsequently became the Basorun of Abeokuta. 
She went with him to the late Ijaye war and was taken captive 
when Ijaye fell on the 31st March, 1862. The captor gave her 
up to Chief Ogumgla. She was sent back to her husband in the 
year 1865 and was the means of reconciliation between Ibadan 
and Abeokuta, after the return of the latter from the Ikorodu 
war. The accounts of these wars will be given below in due course. 
After Somoye's death Ayawo refused the hand ot Chief Ogundipe 
and went back to her early home at Ilaro where she died. 

After the death of the Olu Asade at Itohg the Ilaro refugees 
at Idggo near Igbeji created another Olu, Ojo Kosiwon by name. 
For 19 years he reigned at Idogo and after his death there was an 
interregnum of many years. 

Ilaro was, however, again repeopled but under Egba suzerainty, 
who created one Tela the Olu in 1857. Ilaro continued under 
the Egbas till the year 1891 when they gave themselves over to 
the British Government on account of the incessant raids and 
molestations of the Dahomians from which their Suzerain failed 
to protect them. They now form a Protectorate in the " Western 
Waters " of Lagos. 

§ 3. The Oniyefun War 

After the return of the Ibadans from the Ipetumodu war, 
hearing of the disaster at Owiwi, and that their contingent under 
Oluguna had escaped to Oniyefun and was there hemmed in by 
the Egbas, some of the war-chiefs headed by Osun the chief of the 
cavalry, and Elepo also a great warrior, decided to go to their 
rescue. But Oluguna was met rather on the offensive, waging 
a desultory warfare in Egba territory. Being now re-inforced 
from home he commenced regular operations against the small and 


weaker Egba towns such as Imosai, Iboro, and Jiga. Jakg was 
deserted and these marauders were infesting the Isaga farms 
and wou)d have taken Isaga had not the Egbas sent a strong 
force to protect the place. 

After a short time, however, Elepo left them and returned 
to Ibadan and with him nearly all the other war-chiefs, as he was 
a man of great power and influence. 

The army at Oniyefun being now considerably reduced in 
number, the Egbas attacked it in full force ; several battles 
were fought and the Egbas gained an advantage at every engage- 
ment. They succeeded in cutting off all supplies and in laying a 
close siege against Oniyefun. All the Ibadan common soldiers 
under colour of going foraging escaped from the doomed town 
one by one never to return, but the war-chiefs themselves, with 
their immediate followers and bodyguards, could not leave without 
attracting attention or creating a panic and a rush, with an 
immediate destruction of the town. Osun fell in an engagement ; 
being shot through the head he tumbled off his horse. Sogunro was 
wounded and Dado — late of Ijaye — who was also there, prevented 
Sogunro being taken to Jako as an invalid, lest they should lose 
the services of his fighting men. Dado remained the only war- 
chief in command, but he was no longer the commander he once 
was before his fall. He held out for only five days longer, and then 
left Oniyefun secretly with the other war-chiefs and escaped to 
Ibadan, leaving Oniyefun at the mercy of the invaders. 

The Ibadan war-chiefs who fell at Oniyefun besides Osun were : 
Sogunro, Keji, Ilupakin, lyanburu, Otopo, and Esan. 

§ 4. The Arakanga or Jabara War 

The Ibadan war-chiefs were indignant at the fall of their 
comrades at Oniyefun, especially Osun who was held in high 
esteem, and were bent on avenging his death. This was really 
the cause of the Arakanga war, and not in order to show that 
they were more powerful than the Ijebus as some have erroneously 

In this expedition they secured theallianceof Kurumiof Ijaye and 
Ayo of Abemo, whose contingent met the Ibadan army at Olokemeji. 

This expedition was one of the most stupid ever undei taken 
by the Ibadans. Divided counsels prevailed and therefore no 
adequate preparation was made, one half of the so-called kegs of 
gunpowder carried before the chiefs contained nothing but 
yam flour, thereby deceiving the people who followed them. Some 
asserted that the Egbas were more afraid of poisoned arrows than 
of ballets and therefore never supplied themselves with fire-arms. 


Others went just mechanically because they were obliged to go, but 
without any preparation. We may here notice that this is how 
the junior chiefs behave when the war is unpopular, for they dare 
not remain behind when the head-chiefs march out. 

They marched out through the Ido gate and encamped by the 
Ogun river at Olokemeji for a long time till their stores were 
exhausted, and before the enemy was in sight ! Meantime their 
wives used the empty kegs as water pots. 

After a long time they pushed forward towards Abeokuta, and the 
Egbas met them a great way off. Four hard battles were fought 
and the Egbas retreated to Arakanga, a river behind their town 
wall. Here the Ibadans found themselves with their powder 
exhausted and no time to procure more from Porto Novo or 
Ado ; the arrows some depended upon were found to be of little 
use. Adekambi the war-chief sent from Abemo was the first 
to return home being disgusted at the conduct of the war. With 
him went a good many war-chiefs, and recruits which they met 
on their way back also returned home when they heard the ill 
report of the campaign. 

Five days after Adekambi had left the Egbas appeared in 
full force, determined on death or victory. At a given signal by 
the sound of their god Or6 to which they responded with a shout, 
they made a sudden dash and attacked the enemy vigorously, 
cutlass in hand. 

With their powder exhausted some of the Ibadans resorted 
to the gourd bark planted all over the battlefield, and with this 
they pelted their assailants. From this ciicumstance the 
campaign was termed the " Jabara war." At the height of the 
battle, Bada Akeyan one of the chief swordsmen fell ; and when 
another chief named Adelakun was mortally wounded, the Ibadans 
gave way and the rout was general and complete. 

This desperate method of attack — cutlass in hand — is the peculiar 
method of the Owus, the bravest element in the new settlement, 
and the honour of the victory was theirs. 

The Egbas however had not the courage to pursue their victory 
to any extent seeing amongst the war-chiefs many of those who had 
but recently driven them to Abeokuta : "a lion at bay " may 
prove a dangerous customer to tackle. The Ibadans instead of 
escaping home by the direct route went by way of Ijaye, being 
suspicious of the Ijebus. 

§ 5. The Onidese and Oke Isero Wars 

After a short period of rest Kurfimi the chiei of Ijaye invited 
the Ibadans to an expedition against Onidese. He gave as a 


reason for this war that they were troublesome to him, but as a 
matter of fact, it was from pure jealousy at the growing importance 
of the people of that place and that of their neighbours of He Ode 
famous for their poisoned arrows. 

Seeing the overwhelming force from Ibadan and Ijaye, Owoko 
the chief of Ode was so terrified that he deserted the town with his 
people and escaped to Onidese, but this place was besieged and 
taken. Sejo the chief of Onidese and Owoko of He Ode were 
both taken together. 

Oke I§ero. — The following dry season the Ibadans captured 
Oke Isero for no alleged cause of grievance but simply out of a 
desire for slave raiding. The people of this place were quiet 
agriculturists. Ibadan and other towns were fed with yam flour 
exported from this place. 

§ 6. The Iperu War 

After the defeat of the Ijebus by the Egbas at Owiwi there was 
a series of desultory warfare between them with little or no success. 
Neither of them could encamp or take a town from the other, 
neither would- yield though both were tired. Whereupon the Egbas 
had resort to a cowardly trick, at once disgraceful and perfidious. 
They proposed to the Ijebus of the Remo district who were their 
neighbours, terms of peace which these gladly accepted, being tired 
of the war, and a treaty was made between them. But while 
the Ijebus were rejoicing and congratulating one another in songs 
and dances : — 

" Omode Ijebu, E ku ewu 
Agba Ijebu, E ku ewu 
Ote yi jaja pari o ! " 

(Young folks of Ijebu, we congratulate you 
Old folks of Ijebu, we congratulate you. 
This long-drawn war is at an end at last). 

Suddenly, the Egbas who had lain in ambush sprang upon them 
and began to make captives of them. Makun and other towns 
were taken and destroyed and Iperu was besieged. The Ijebus 
beingharassedandgreatly straitened sent to Ibadan for help. All 
the war-chiefs were sent forward except Lakanle the Commander- 
in-chiet, who remained at home with the aged Oluyedun the 
Kakanfo, and the venerable Labgsinde the Baba Isale. 

The Egbas proved too strong for the allies, and all their efforts 
to raise the siege of Iperu were fruitless. The difficulty of pro- 
visioning a besieged town without stores at the best of times 
and with a large access of auxiliaries proved insurmountable. The 


allies lost several battles and the Egbas hemmed them in very 
closely. Iperu was nearly taken when the Ibadan allies sent 
home to their commander to come at once to their rescue as all 
hopes of deteating the Egbas were gone. 

Lakanle responded to the call of his people and took the field 
in person. On his arrival at Iperu he assumed no lofty airs nor 
did he allow one word of reproach to fall from his lips. On the 
contrary he praised the war-chiefs and harangued the men as 
follows : — " Fellow countrymen and companions in arms, I am 
not more surprised at your valour and prowess than at your 
chivalry in inviting me to share with you the honours of the field. 
For what can I do singly without your aid ? I know your love and 
esteem for me and that you only wish for me the honour and fruits 
of the victory ; I am come therefore to grant you your hearts' 
desire and lead you on to victory. Be assured also that I. 
reciprocate your feelings of love towards me, for since your 
absence from home I have entered every compound now and 
again to ask after the welfare of your families and I am this day 
able to assure you that they are in good health. 

I have gone the round of all the farms and when I saw any over- 
grown with weeds and learnt that the owner was at the seat of 
war, I ordered the farm to be immediately cleaned. I am now able 
to assure you also that your farms are in good order and your 
families in good health. Be of good cheer my brave men and by 
this time to-morrow let victory crown our efforts." 

The soldiers gave long and loud shouts of "Muso, Muso, Muso." 
They made the heavens reverberate with their shouts and were 
heard at a very great distance. 

When the Egbas heard that Lakanle had reached the camp 
they extemporized a ditty including his name : — 

" Nigbati a ba pade t'awa ti Lakanle 
Igi t'o ba se oju re a wl o ! " 

(When we do meet, ourselves and Lakanle 

The trees that witness the sight shall tell the tale.) 

And so it was. It must here be admitted that since the Egbas 
have been driven to Abeokuta and have had almost constantly 
to engage in wars both offensive and defensive against the Oygs 
in one direction, Ijebus in another, and the Egbaluwe provinces, 
they have developed a wonderful aptitude for fighting, and capable 
generals have been thrown up amongst them. A most sanguinary 
battle was fought the next day, and so great was the courage which 
the presence of their commander-in-chief infused into the Ibadan 
soldiers, and with such skill were they led that the tide of victory 


turned in their favour that day. The Egbas were utterly defeated 
but their skilful commanders encouraged them to keep up the fire 
until sunset so as to be able to retreat in good order. Moreover 
they also tried to prevent a panic among their soldiers by not 
allowing the bodies of the wounded and the slain to be taken to 
the camp or to lie scattered about in the battlefield, and so they 
made a pile of the corpses so as to have the field cleared up. But in 
spite of it all, the Egbas could not hold on till the evening ; they 
were completely routed and Lakanl^'s victory was decisive. 

In the pursuit, Lakanl^'s attention was drawn to the pile of 
corpses, and for the first time his lion-like heart was m.elted by 
the dreadful carnage, and the following exclamation escaped 
from his lips "Are these the bodies of mortals once born of women? " 
" Of course they are " retorted a private soldier " and whose 
work it was but yours? Was there any such butchery seen before 
you came into the camp ? " The great general turned away quietly 
without uttering a word more. 

Thus Iperu was saved to the great disappointment of the Egbas 
and this they afterwards expressed in their street songs : — 
Ki a ko Iperu ki a ko Ode 
Ni Barapa ru imu re de 
(Iperu and Ode we had all but taken, 
When officious Barapas came poking their noses.) 

§ 7. The Fall of Ota 

The Egbas at this time were equally as restless as the Ibadans 
waging a series of wars with the surrounding tribes, A serious 
complication arose between them and the Otas about this time 
which resulted in the latter place being besieged by them. 

Ota is the name given to a small town and clan of the Awori 
tribes situated about 24 miles north of Lagos. They are usually 
reckoned amonst the Egbaluwes. 

Prince Kosoko of Lagos was an ally of the Otas and it was he 
who asked the help of the Ibadans in defence of Ota. 

A force was sent from Ibadan under the command of Oliiygle 
the Osi. He made Ipara his headquarters and sent two war-chiefs 
Elepo his own lieutenant and Inakoju the Seriki with some minor 
war-chiefs to the scene of conflict ; these encamped at Agerige, 
Lagosward, from which place they marched to Ota when there 
was to be a fight. 

The Egbas fought bravely but the besieged defended their town 
most heroically assisted by their ally. The Egbas in order to 
harass the allies began kidnapping the Ibadan caravans, who were 
supplying them with provisions from home, as there was none to 


be got locally, so that the station at Ipara coiild not supply that 
at Ageiige. Lakanle hearing this at home left the town and 
stationed himself at Ikija, from which place he sent escorts with the 
weekly caravans to Ipara ; by this means Agerige was also relieved 
and communication established with Ibadan. 

The Otas are known to be an obstinate people, and in the defence 
of their homes every man amongst them was a hero ! The Egbas 
had nearly given up the campaign in despair ; a good many of the 
war-chiefs had returned home and others became rather listless, 
but for the shame of being baulked by such a small clan which 
kept them in the field, the whole undertaking would have collapsed. 
But the situation was improved by the diplomacy of one of the 
Egba chiefs ; he advised that unbounded licence be granted to 
the soldier}' in the field to gratify their passions in any manner 
they liked with impunity, himself setting the example : the amount 
of bravery displayed under fire, was to be the measure of indulgence 
in the camp. The device proved successful, the camp was 
refilled with characters of all sorts, and the campaign was prosecuted 
with renewed vigour. The small town was hemmed in on all sides 
and famine effected what the sword failed to accomplish. 

When their Ibadan allies saw that the Otas were not likely 
to hold out much longer, and that it was with difficulty they could 
obtain supplies from home, they left Agerige secretlj' and hastened 

Ota was at length taken by the Egbas and they wreaked their 
vengeance on the inhabitants so mercilessly, especially on the men 
for their obstinate resistance, that the clan was nearly extinguished 
altogether. From that time to this Ota has been subjected to 
the Egbas. 

The Ibadan contingent under Elepo and Inakoju met Oluyole 
at Ipara. Whilst here, a most pernicious plot was hatched with 
consequences so far-reaching and so disastrous resulting in repeated 
civil fights at home, until nearly the whole of the important war- 
chiefs perished one after another. Oluyole aspiring to the position 
of commander-in-chief planned a scheme by which Lakanlfe 
and Bankole his lieutenant should be wiped out, but the plot was 
discovered and it aroused great indignation at Ibadan. There 
was a determination that he should not be allowed to re-enter 
the town and steps were taken to prevent it. All the other chiefs 
returned one by one. 

It was due to his friend Elepo alone that Oluyole re-entered 
Ibadan. He kept him informed of all that was taking place at 
home. Oluyole remained out but kept advancing by small 
stages, with the connivance of Elepo, till one night he entered by 


the town gate from another direction. Once at home E16po 
prevailed on all the senior Chiefs to forbear with him and 
pardon him. 

Then Oluyole's men began firing a feu de joie but with guns 
charged with bullets, directing them towards Lakanle's house, 
and Lakanle's men returning the compHment did the same towards 
Oluyole's, the houses of the principal war-chiefs ranging round the 
central market. This continued for several days, the chiefs of 
both sides taking no part, but leaving the skirmishing to their boys. 
The tension of affairs affected the whole town, all business was at a 
standstill, till Labosinde the Baba-Isale came forward with some 
elderly chiefs and put a stop to these proceedings. 

This pacification however lasted but a short time, for soon 
afterwards there arose a complication between Oluwaiye, one 
of Lakanle's lieutenants and one of Oluyole's men. This developed 
into something approaching a civil fight, the town was soon in an 
uproar. Then Bankole unarmed approached Oluyole's men, and 
with soothing words was urging them to desist, and not to disturb 
the recently made peace, when one of Oluyole's men levelled 
his gun at him for interfering and shot him down dead ! This 
was a signal for a civil fight in the heat of which Oluwaiye fell. 
Thus Lakanle was deprived of both his lieutenants, and Oluyole's 
party gained the upper hand ; Lakanle had to take refuge with his 
old friend Agbeni at his quarters. 

Oluyole now obtained the object of his ambition, and would not 
listen to any adjustment of affairs except the death or expulsion of 
Lakanle. The brave man hearing this put an end to his own 
life by ripping his bowels open with a jack-knife, and passing the 
entrails around his own neck. In a few minutes he expired 
in the arms of one of his men. 

Thus Oluyole became supreme at Ibadan. 

Chapter XIII 


§ I. Final Efforts to Throw off the Fulani Yoke 

The Metropolis had long been left to herself whilst great and 
stirring events had been taking place all over the country. The 
outcome of the rebellion of the chiefs and the revolution Was the 
foundation of modern Ibadan, Abeokuta, Modakeke, the occupation 
of Ijaye, Abemg, the destruction of the city of Owu, and the fall 
of many ancient towns in the plain, and above all the ascendancy 
of Ilgrin under the ravaging foreigners. 

That such important events as these should take place, one 
after another, altering the face of the country, and the King 
not be able to promote or retard the accomplishment of any — 
a King only in name, the direct descendant of absolute monarchs 
and deified heroes— could not but be a matter of pain and grief 
to the sovereign. Added to all this was a great calamity which 
befel him at home, one that distressed him sore and accelerated 
his death. A fire broke out in the palace and all efforts to arrest 
its ravages failed, and most of the accumulated treasures of his 
ancestors were consumed in the conflagration ! Great efforts were 
made to remove some to out-houses away from the direction of 
the flames, but unfortunately by a turn of the wind, those out- 
houses also caught fire and everything was lost ! 

Between the distress caused by the Ilorins now masters of the 
country, and the destructive fires the King died of a broken heart. 
Prince Oluewu was elected his successor with the general consent 
of the nobles and the King-makers. 

Oluewu was said to be a prince comely in person, but all too 
conscious of his own dignity and importance ; haughty and irritable 
in temperament. His one aim and determination was to recover 
his dominions from the Fulanis first, and then subdue all his 
refractory chiefs. 

Soon after Oluewu 's accession, Shitta the King of Ilgrin, required 
him to come to Ilgrin in person to pay homage to him as his vassal. 
But Oluewu was unwilling to go ; however, his great chiefs, and 
especially Prince Atiba of AggOja brought pressure and entreaties 



to bear upon him, and he was prevailed upon to accede to the 
wishes of the conqueror in order to save the capital and the remnant 
of the towns that still paid their allegiance to Oyo. 

Shitta received him with every mark of honour and distinction; 
but all the same, the shame and disgrace of it all, with unutterable 
resentment rankled in the breast of King Oluewu. The 
Gbedu drum was beaten before him as he went, and also on his 
returning. Shitta's attention was drawn to that particular drum 
and he asked some questions about it. When he was told it was 
a royal drum beaten before the ICing alone, he ordered it to be 
taken away, saying " There cannot be two Kings in my dominion 
but one only, and that is myself." 

Oluewu felt his humiliation keenly and was resolved to resent 
it at all cost or die in the attempt. But that was not all ; the Emir 
of Ilorin sent Jimba one of his head slaves after Oluewu to ransack 
the palace at Oyo and to bring away anything of value he could 
lay his hands upon so that Oyo may not be said to have anything 
which Ilorin has not. This Jimba did, and among other things 
removed were the 100 brass posts in the long corridor of the palace 
erected by King Aganju. 

Again, a short time after, Shitta required the Alafin of Oyo 
to come over to Ilorin to perform the ceremony known as " tapping 
the Koran," in order to become a true Moslem, but the AlAfin 
was resolved never to go to Ilorin a second time come what may. 
The chiefs urged him to do so in vain. However, Akioso the 
Basorun and Ailumg the Asipa went, against the express order of 
the King forbidding them to go ; and on account of this he was 
resolved to punish them, although they were too powerful for 
him to order their execution at once. 

The AlAfin's refusal to go to Ilorin being considered an offence 
to Shitta, the latter sent an army with Lanloke the chief of Ogodo, 
which ravaged the suburbs of Oyo and the city itself was 
threatened. At this crisis the AlAfin invited the aid of the 
Baribas, to assist him in subduing his enemies " within and 
without." Those within were the Basorun and the Asipa who 
went to Ilorin against his commands. 

On a fatal morning the Basorun and the Asipa went with the 
other noblemen to a council at the palace gate, for consultation 
about the impending Ilorin war, and the defence of the city. 
Whilst there, they heard that the Baribas were entering the city 
by the Modahade gate. Thinking that they were invited by the 
King merely to help to defend the city, the A§ipa rode to meet 
them and was according them a hearty welcome in the usual 
manner of men on horseback shaking the fist, when all of a sudden 


a shower of darts came pouring down upon him, and the son of 
one Fagbayibi shot him dead on horseback! 

The Baribas then pursued after the Basgrun who fled to the 
palace begging the King to spare his life. " Ah," said the King, 
" why should you beg me now, are you not the master and I the 
subordinate ? Why crave your life from your servant ? " 

In the noise and confusion that ensued with the entrance of 
the Baribas, the Basorun managed to escape to his own house ; 
express messengers were thereupon sent to his relatives that 
he should be kept under strict surveillance whilst the King and his 
allies were engaged in the defence of the city, and that they would 
be held responsible for his escape. But a family council was held 
and in order to save him from a disgraceful death in public, his 
relatives put an end to his life by strangUng. 

The forces of nature came to the defence of Oyo on this occasion. 
There was a great storm, and whether it was due to the great 
number of gUttering Swords and spears brandished, or whatever 
may have been the cause, hghtning was attracted and so Izirge 
a number of men were struck in the Ilorin host that their army 
was discomfited, and the men fled away in terror. Oyo was a 
great city, which could not be rushed by the Ilorins nor could it be 
invested and reduced by along siege, for there was always the fear 
that a prolonged siege of their metropoUs by aliens might rouse the 
great chiefs of the country to its aid. Thus failing to take the 
city, Shitta's next tactics were the subversion of the remaining 
large Yoruba towns that still showed any allegiance to Qyo, and 
hence Gbodo was besieged. He also succeeded in securing the 
alliance of some powerful Yoruba chiefs among whom were the 
Onikoyi, Chief Elebuof Ago Oja, and Prince Atibaof the same place. 
This last named having resided at Ilorin for some time was well 
known to the Fulanis. 

The AlAfin again secured the help of the Baribas. Eleduwg 
the Bariba king promised to help him not only to conquer the 
Ilorins but also to subdue his rebel chiefs. Gbodo which was 
closely besieged by the Ilorins was well nigh taken when timely 
help arrived in the person of the Eleduwe and his Bariba hordes. 
Some of the Yoruba chiefs were serving in the Ilorin army at the 
time, notably those of Ago Oja mentioned above, but be it said to 
the praise of Prince Atiba that he was acting merely out of 
policy, for his soldiers, from private instructions previously 
received, were firing only gunpowdei. This was suspected when in 
spite of the vigorous attacks of Atiba, his fire never killed or 
wounded anyone ; the guns of his men were thereupon examined, 
and the truth had to be confessed. 


The Baribas were good archers, the siege of Gbodo was raised 
and the defeated Ilorins and their alUes were hotly pursued. 

It was about the month of June, when the rivers were swollen 
by rain, and thousands of Ilorin horse and foot were driven into 
the river Ogun and were drowned. Elebu the brother and 
successor of Oja the founder of Ago found here a watery grave. 
He would have escaped death but for the plot against his life. 
It is said that the late Oja was a dear friend to Prince Atiba and 
the friendship continued all through his life until he perished 
at the Kanla expedition ; but Elebu his brother begrudged that 
friendship : he always suspected the influence and good faith of 
the prince, regarding him as a potential usurper of his family 
rights ; and when he succeeded his brother as the Bale of Ago, 
there was always friction between them. Consequently on this 
occasion as Elebu plunged into the river during the flight and 
with great difficulty swam across he caught hold of a Gbingbin 
tree that stretched its branches far out into the river, but one 
Lohosa who had preceded him and got on to the tree, seeing 
Elebu in his exhausted condition, and in order to do good service 
to Prince Atiba, cut off that branch of the tree and Elebu was 
swept away and was drowned. 

Prince Atiba himself nearly lost his life there also, had not 
Yesufu his uncle, carried him across on his back and given him 
his horse on the other side to ride home. 

But the prince and many others owed their life really to Maje 
his balogun. The Baribas would have overtaken them at the banks 
of the river before they could cross had he not kept them at bay 
whilst horses and men were struggling across, and so he gave up 
his life to save theirs, for he fell there. 

The wreck of the Ilorin army gathered at Bala and Iwo from 
which places they returned home. 

But the Eleduwe was not satisfied with raising the seige of 
Gbodo, he was determined to free the country entirely of these 
foreigners, and hence he was resolved to conquer Ilorin. Oluewu 
the AlAfin, whose cause he was espousing was right glad and 
sent round to invite the co-operation of all his subjects includ- 
ing those who were alhes of the Ilorins, knowing that they 
were aUies only out of policy, but not wilhngly, and that they 
would be glad to be free from the foreign yoke. 

But matters were complicated by the fact that most of the Oyo 
chief towns in the eastern and western provinces had been subju- 
gated by the Ilorins and were vassals of that state. Hence at a 
council of war held by the two Kings it was decided that they 
should not march straight from Oyo to Ilorin, but make a detour 


by the western province, in order to secure the alliance and good 
faith of these vassal states, and thus to collect an overwhelming 
army against Ilgrin. Accordingly the Eleduwe sent Jankgrg 
one of his war-chiefs to garrison Ago Oja, whose chief was an Ilgrin 
ally, and Jegede another war-chief to garrison Otefan whilst he 
himself was following with his invincible army in their wake. 

The Ilgrins hearing of the threatened invasion were not idle 
either, but were making full preparations offensive and defensive. 

Jimba the head slave of the king of Ilgrin headed an expedition 
of horse and foot to the Otefan farms when they heard of the 
garrison there, and brought away several captives. Jimba's 
route in going was through the Esiele farms, but was so far from 
the town that his company was not seen. On his return he came 
through the town and halted at the gate to receive Fasgla the 
Bale, who came to pay him his respects. Jimba did not dismount 
as he was in a hurry to get away with his captives lest he be over- 
taken, for he was sure of a pursuit. On horseback he accepted 
the hospitality of a drink of cold water, and before hurrying away 
gave the following advice to Fasgla " You are between two fires 
and you would be wise to vacate this town at once. I am 
just returning as you see with captives from the Otefan farms. 
Although you were not aware of my passing through your farms 
yet had I been detected, I would have suspected you as a traitor, 
and would have punished you on my return although you may be 
innocent. And now as I return through your town the Otefan 
pursuers will track me to this place and you may likely suffer for 
it and we have no means of protecting you, hence I advise you 
speedily to vacate this place." 

The Esiele people after consultation together decided at 
once to follow his advice. Otefan being the nearest large town 
and wishing to cast in their lot mth the new conqueror, they 
decided to escape thither and accordingly despatched oneBankgle 
to apprise Idowu the Bale of Otefan of their intentions. At 
Bankole's instance they promised not to desert their home before 
his return as they treated him on a previous occasion ; but their 
cowardice got the better of them. On returning Bankgle met the 
fugitives by the way and this was the third and last time Esielg 
was deserted, and is to this day an uninhabited desert. 

It was in the month of March 1830, that the Eleduwe accom- 
pam'ed by Prince Atiba of Agg Oja and Jatq, Eleduwe's general, 
joined the garrison at Otefan the rendezvous of the Oyo army. 
Kurumi of Ijaye, the Aseyin of Iseyin, the Sabigana of Igana, 
the Okere of Saki and others of the western province met them 
there. Here King Oluewu and the Eleduwe pledged the confidence 


of all the Oyo war-chiefs save the Bale of Ogbomoso and the 
Onikoyi, both of whom were in secret alliance with the Ilorins, 
although they outwardly professed loyalty to their lawful 

Meanwhile, the Emir of Ilorin alarmed by this great host sent 
to the Sultan of Sokoto his suzerain for help. The Sultan sent 
17 kings under Esugoyi of Rabbah to his aid, and they came 
with such an overwhelming force that those of the two kings were 
as a mere handful before them. The two kings were besieged at 
Otefan by the Ilorin and Niger hosts, several battles were fought, 
and they were nearly overwhelmed by numbers. At the last great 
battle, but for the courage, wisdom and experience of Eleduwe 
theBariba King, the fate of the whole expedition would have been 
decided on that day. He fought in the centre, the AlAfin and 
Oyo chiefs in the right and left wings. He sent aid to those 
fighting in both wings, so that thej, forced the enemy into the 
centre, and in one furious charge he bore down upon them and 
dispersed them. Esugoyi's army was routed with great slaughter 
and fled away in confusion. The victory however, was dearly 
bought, for Yenibini, King Eleduwe's first-born son fell in the 

The Oyos pursued their victory too far till they met with a 
disaster. They dearly learnt the lesson that in the pursuit of a 
foe footmen are no match for horsemen. The Ilorins having 
recovered from the panic of their defeat, a body of horsemen 
suddenly wheeled round and charged upon their pursuers and 
speared about 400 of them, thereby forcing them to desist from 
the pursuit. They were then able to retreat in good order, and 
made good their escape. 

§ 2. Failure. The Eleduwe War 

About the month of June, 1830, the two Kings left Otefan for 
Adeyi, and thence proceeded to Ogbomoso. Here King Oluewu 
sent round to the whole of the Yoruba chiefs to join him in the last 
effort to throw off the Fulani yoke. There responded to his call 
Oluyole of Ibadan with several Egba war-chiefs, Kurumi of 
Ijaye, Ayo of Abem6, Timi of Ede and others. This mighty host 
remained here for about six months wasting time. They were 
holding councils almost every day as to how best they might 
attack Ilorin with success. But here also the future of the expedi- 
tion was foreshadowed and the doom of the allied Kings was 
sealed. There were two principal causes for this, viz., the rapacity 
of the Bariba soldiers, and the imprudence of the Kings. 

The excesses of the Baribas made the Yoruba chiefs and 


people fear lest they pass from one master to another and a 
worse. The Fulanis weie after all a superior race, but the Baribas, 
a race of bandits, as masters would be more intolerable. The 
country was literally being ravaged b^ them. They considered 
themselves licensed to all the goats in the country. Even when 
kept in the inner apartment of the houses, they would get at 
them and devour them. Sheep they did not care for, but goats, 
say they are traitors and must be devoured. For this reason the 
Yorubas termed them " Arun-eran " (cattle devourers) while the 
Ilorins termed them Ikoriko (wolves). 

Their excesses consisted not only in devouring cattle, but also 
in stripping and depriving helpless ones of their cloths ; at length 
they spared not even men though they might be armed. Organized 
bands would attack and deprive men of all their valuables. 

The Oyos could offer little or no resistance because the persons 
of the Baribas were held sacred, already being considered the 
deliverers of the country. 

The following instance will show how sacred their persons were 
regarded. One of them attacked an Oyo man, who was not 
wilHng to give way Hghtly and the Bariba was shot dead by him. 
The Oyo man ran away. So much noise and hubbub were raised 
about this, that both Kings rode in person to the spot to see the 
corpse. The converse to this might have happened every day 
without provoking any comment. But the eyewitnesses of the 
affray were so much in sympathy with the murderer that he was 
not betrayed, so disgusted was everybody with the excesses of the 
Baribas. All this might have been avoided if instead of wasting 
time at Ogbomoso they had given the soldiers work to do by 
marching at once on Ilorin, half demoralized by two successive 
defeats. On the contrary they allowed them time to regain 
theii confidence and perfect their defences. Small blame indeed 
to the soldiers as each one had to provide for himself, how- 
ever prolonged the campaign. 

The two Kings were imprudent enough to betray their 
feelings. It leaked out that after the conquest of Ilorin all 
the refractory Yoruba chiefs who had usurped the King's prerog- 
ative would be murdered by the help of theBariba king ; and the 
kingdom would again be one under the Alafin. 

One or two instances might be given of how the Kings betrayed 

L. Timi Bamgbaiye of Ede on his arrival at the camp went 
straight to pay his homage to the King. Being a corpulent man 
the Eleduwe was heard to remark " See this corpulent fellow, 
one of those who have made themselves fat upon the King's 


diverted revenues. Never mind, he also will be dealt with after 
the war as he deserves." 

2. Above all the others the one who appeared the most offensive 
to the Bariba king was Prince Atiba of Ago Oja. He was all 
Fulani in his manners. He had resided at Ilorin for some time 
and adopted the Fulani custom of being lifted up and helped 
off his horse by his attendants, and one of his menials ready 
with his sandals so that he might not have to walk barefoot when 
his riding boots were off. 

The two Kings were one day sitting at a pubUc meeting, and 
Prince Atiba arrived late with an august pageantry to the disgust 
of the kings and chiefs present, who could not afford as much. 
He was preceded by his Junior war-chiefs mounted on strong 
ponies, with their attendant footmen ; then those mounted on 
larger horses came after, then himself followed on a specially 
powerful animal richly caparisoned, with a large retinue. He 
was lifted off his horse his sandals being ready for him to 
put on, contrary to the etiquette of the country to be shod before 
a king. This was disgusting to both Kings and to many of the 
Oyo chiefs present, who, notwithstanding the rebellion and 
revolution still going on, have yet full respect for royalty. 

Olurinde the chief of Sepeteri in the eastern province, could 
not bear to see this act of disrespect pass unreproved, so he 
went near and pulled off the sandals from Atiba's feet, and thus 
reprimanded him : " Know you not before whom you are ? How 
dare you be shod in the presence of our King ? " Atiba could 
not brook a reproof from a commoner and from wounded pride 
fiercely retorted; "And who are you ? And what is that to you ? 
The King is my father and, as a prince, I have privileges which 
the likes of you can never aspire to. I can even pass by him into 
the harem which none of you can dare do ; but who are you ? " 
The contention was so sharp that Kitoyi the Okere of Saki had 
to interpose begging Prince Atiba to have respect for the two 
Kings, to take off the sandals, and not to persist merely for the 
purpose of spiting the Sepeteri chief. 

The Kings noticed all this and marked Prince Atiba out as one 
of those to be dealt with after the war. 

Lastly the disaffection towards Oluewu was increased by the 
unreasoning stubbornness he displayed to whatever advice was 
given him, however good. The Oyo chiefs who were left to guard 
the city were kept informed of everything that transpired. They 
were very anxious as to the fate of the expedition ; their own 
interests were chiefly involved in the fate of the capital. They 
were sure the offended chiefs would take revenge and wreck the army 


of which they formed a part. Consequently they sent message 
after message to advise the King not to advance on Ilgrin direct 
from Ogbomoso but to come by way of Ikoyi, Iwo, Gbogun, 
and Sah6 making the attack from the north so that having the 
capital and the Niger provinces behind him he might in case of 
defeat have safe places within easy reach to retire- upon. And in 
order to give strength and force to the advice, they represented it 
as the express advice of the god Ifa by divination. Knowing his 
haughtiness they sent their messages through the Bariba king, 
to whom alone he might perhaps listen ; but as they anticipated, 
not even from the Eleduwe would he brook any such advice. 
He was for marching straight on Ilorin from Ogbomoso. 

Before the army marched out of Ogbomoso the disaffected 
Yoruba provincial kings and chiefs entered into a conspiracy to 
desert the King and his ally at a critical moment and therefore in 
order to apprise the Ilorins of their intentions they sent them- a 
parabolic message in soap, camwood, and karinkan (flesh brush) 
implying " We are attending the bride to the bridegroom's house." 
This was fully understood at Ilorin. 

The huge host left Ogboragsg in December 1830 by slow stages 
encamping first at Aduin, where they were for nine days. (Ilorin is 
but one good day's walk from Ogbomoso). On the tenth day they 
advanced to Jayin, thence to Ogele, and from Ogele they encamped 
at the farm of one Ajiya of Ilorin. Never before was Ilorin 
threatened by so large a force, consequently the consternation 
there was great, and vast preparations were made for battle, 
offensive and defensive. The face of every man was marked by 
grim determination to do his best. The Moslem priests were very 
busy making charms and amulets not only for individual self- 
protection but also in order to defeat the enemy completely. A 
crow, a cat, and a crown bird (the Agufan) with charms tied round 
their necks were sent by special messengers to be left in the camp 
of the allied armies. These messengers were caught and when 
threatened they boldly showed that they despised death and said 
to their captors " Take our advice and decamp at once for as for 
the yams you are now cooking in our farms it is a question whether 
you will be able to eat them before you are^ defeated, and even if 
you should, we are quite sure that the survivors will evacuate 
them at the Ogbomoso farms." 

Shortly after this a company of Ilorin horse surprised a body 
of men who went foraging, and the Bariba troops who went out 
against them were repulsed, but Prince Atiba whose men were 
armed with guns came to their timely aid, drove back the horsemen 
and captured a horse. 


To show the wanton excesses of these Baribas, even after this 
skirmish in which they figured so badly, they went unceremoniously 
to Prince Atiba's tent and coolly loosed the horse that was captured 
and were taking it away ! They laid claim to it not because it was 
captured by them, but because they considered themselves now 
the masters as it was they who had the first brush with the enemy. 
But the Prince was not the man to forego his claims easily, he 
pointed out forcibly how, but for his timely succour there could 
not have been any question as to the ownership of the horse, for 
instead of capturing, they themselves would all have been killed, 
or captured. The contention was so fierce between them that 
the Alafin had to send a special message to Atiba to forego 
his claims and give up the horse for the sake of peace. 

The following day being Friday the Kings did not take the field 
until 2 p.m., Fridays being considered unlucky up to that hour. 

The Kings again fought in the centre in the highway called 
the Pakaba road, and located the Yoruba war-chiefs on the right 
and left wings of the army. 

But Prince Atiba of AgQ and the Timi Bamgbaiye of Edg 
did not fire a shot or shoot an arrow before they gave way, affording 
the enemy an advantage to surround the two Kings. It was 
Oluyole of Ibadan alone who seemed not to have been apprised 
of the plot, for he fought for some time on the road leading to Oke 
Suna and pressed the florins hard towards the town wall. The 
camp was taken behind them and fired before the Kings were 
aware of the perfidy of the Yoruba chiefs. There was no alterna- 
tive now for them but to fight desperately and sell their Uves as 
dearly as possible. The Eleduwe fought with his usual bravery 
and exhausted all his skill to retrieve the position if possible, but 
he was overpowered by numbers and fell among the slain. His 
head was taken off and carried in triumph to the town and exposed 
upon the town WcQl. 

King Oluewu's heir seeing that the day was lost rode up to his 
father and bade him farewell, to meet again in the other world. 
Putting spurs into his horse he galloped to meet the enemy and 
fought gallantly until he fell among those he had slain. 

The Ilgrin horse and foot were in pursuit all night and 
unfortunately for the wreck of the Oyo army whilst escaping to 
Ogbomoso they missed the way taking one that led back to Ilorin ; 
they met the pursuers at a short distance and were all either 
captured or slain. 

Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of the charm bearers who were 
caught, that the yams they were then cooking might be eaten at 
the Ilorin farms but would be evacuated in the Ogbomosg farms. 


Lanloke the chief of Ogodo who had always been an inveterate 
enemy of Oyo and an active ally of Ilorin, taking advantage of 
the absence of the King and principal war-chiefs from the city, 
came and attacked Oyo, but he was repulsed by the Ohota nick- 
named Ari-ibon-peji eyin, (one whose gun can create a gap in the 
upper front teeth) , who was left in charge. 

When the news of the disaster reached Oyo and that both Kings 
had perished, Lanloke again attacked the city but was again 
repulsed. The citizen's fearing that he would receive re-inforce- 
ment from Ilorin did not wait to try any further conclusions ; 
the great metropolis was deserted, some fled to Kihisi, some to 
Igboho, and some even to Ilorin. As it was not a flight from an 
enemy in pursuit many who reached Kihisi and Igboho safely 
with their family returned a^ain and again for their household 
goods and chattels till one Agandangban went and told Lanloke 
that Oyo had been deserted, and the latter proceeded immediately 
to plunder, and carry away what was left by the citizens. 

Thus failed the fourth and last campaign against Ilorin, and such 
was the fall of the great Metropohs " Eyeo or Katunga," the 
ancient Oyo, still in rains. 

Chaptep XIV 
§ I. Civil War at Abem6 

Before the Eleduwe war broke out, a marked disaffection and 
rivalry was rife between the two leading chiefs of Abem6, Ayo 
the Bale and Okoyan alias Lahan the next man to him. 

The latter claimed relationship to Oyabi the late Kakanfo 
at Ajase and hence to Kurumi of Ijaye also. This rivalry became 
apparent during the expedition, for Lahan out of spite to his chief 
Ayg, went over to Kurumi, encamped with him and fought under 
his standard as if he was an Ijaye rhan. The disaffection now 
became an open rupture and it was evident to all that Lahan was 
secretly abetted by chief Kurumi of Ijaye. It subsequently 
became known that Lahan and Kurumi were plotting to fall upon 
Ayo suddenly and despatch him after their retreat, before reaching 
home. Ayo apprised of this, suddenly broke up his encampment, 
and by forced marches reached home a considerable time before 
Lahan who followed hard after him. 

But Ayo instead of entering his house remained squatting on 
a mat in the square in front of his compound, close by the spot 
where his women folk were dyeing cloths, his horse standing by 
his side, and his spear stuck in the ground close by him, 

Lahan halted outside the town walls, afraid to enter. When 
Ayo heard of it he sent to invite him to return to his house in 
peace, but Lahan suspicious and afraid to enter by the main gate 
took a circuitous route and entered by the one nearest to his 
quarter of the town where he commanded about 200 compounds. 
Their designs having now failed Kurumi became very anxious 
about the safety of his friend Lahan, and not wishing to leave him 
thus at the mercy of Ayg he attempted to bring about a reconcili- 
ation between them before proceeding home to Ijaye ; but Ayo 
politely declined his interference saying that having just returned 
home from this great war it was too early to talk about such 
matters. Kurumi thus disappointed proceeded homewards but 
first despatched Amodu one of his distinguished captains on 
horseback to bid Ayo good bye and to say he would return in a 
short time to settle their difference. 

Amodu met Ayg on the same spot his horse still unsaddled 
but all his men had dispersed, only about 5 attendants remained 
L 269 


with him. Amodu having delivered his message returned to his 
master, and suggested to him that a better opportunity than this 
cannot be had of making short work of the whole affair ; Ayo's 
men having dispersed he could easily be surprised and killed. 

Kuruni took the hint and made for Ayo ; the latter surprised 
to see an armed force coming on towards him, hastily jumped 
upon his horse and was ready for action. Kurumi perceiving it 
would not be an easy matter to accomplish his purpose, did not 
venture upon an attack but speedily wheeled round and left the 
town by another gate. 

Ayo and his men thereupon became mad with rage and they 
fell upon Lahan, fired his quarter of the town, took his men with 
their wives and childien as captives of war ! Lahan himself was 
spared with but a few attendants, and allowed to shelter himself 
in a small house in that quarter which had escaped the conflagra- 
tion. Here he spent a most miserable night of grief, remorse 
and disappointment, having lost all his family and all his 

Chief Oluygle of Ibadan arrived at Abemg only a day too late 
to be of any service to his friends, and was very sorry that this had 
happened, especially at this crisis. He visited Lahan where 
he was to sympathize with him for his misfortunes having a 
reminiscence of his own troubles on his return from the Ota war. 
He went straight from Lahan to Ayo to effect a reconciliation 
between them and the release of those who were seized, contending 
that they cannot be regarded as prisoners of war but fellow towns- 
men and victims of a civil fight. He further showed the impolicy 
of having one part of the town desolate. He succeeded with Ayo 
and with some of his chiefs ; some had even set free their own 
captives. Thus, in order to assure Oluyole, one Oga appealed 
to Kukomi one of his followers in the presence of them all, "Have 
I not released mine ? " In the same way one Eku6debe appealed 
to one Bankole. The reply in both cases was in the affirmative. 
Thereupon one Akilapa and Agidi-ko-ko-iku who had not yet done 
so asked leave to go home and release theirs at once. Everything 
now seemed to make for a peaceful settlement, when one Ogun- 
gbade an Own man then residing at Abem^ raised a strong objection 
to the proceedings ; he declined to set his captives free and 
declared himself unconcerned as to the results even if it be the 
destruction of Abem6 and the loss of his own liberty. Said he 
" I am an Owu man by birth, my parents came from the ancient 
Owu Ipole to the city of Owu where I was born. The same fortune 
that smiled on my parents at Owu Ipole, smiled on them at the 
city of Owu, Here am I, fortune is smiling on me to-day although 


I was taken captive at the fall of the city of Owu. Let Abem6 
be destroyed to-day and let me lose all I have and be taken captive, 
I shall still be a great man wherever I may be. 'Tis enough, Abem^ 
may be destroyed in part or in whole ; it matters nothing. We 
shall not release our prisoners." 

Unfortunately at such a crisis as this, Chief Ayo was in an 
inebriated condition, although he was conscious of what was going 
on and was able to signify his acquiescence to Chief Oluyole ; yet 
throughout all the proceedings and the wicked proposals of the 
Owu man he remained silent, and further, he displayed in the 
presence of Oluyole some of those disgusting habits customary 
with him of soiling himself while in that state. 

Oluyole was indignant with Ayo and his councillors and looked 
upon them all as a number of fools ; he, however, concealed his 
anger, but the whole affair was terminated abruptly and unsatis- 

About the time of Oluyole's departure however, Ayo was 
able to thank him for the interest he kindly took in the affairs 
of the town, and presented him with a young woman among the 
captives. Oluyole was dehghted with this acquisition to his 
harem. She was described as a young woman of great beauty, 
of a fair complexion and a slim figure. But the mother hastened 
forward with a tender appeal to Oluyole, and prostrating (after the 
manner of men) before him, said " She cannot be your wife, 
for she is your relative ; we also are of the Basgrun descent like 
yourself." Oluyole yielded to her entreaties but demanded 15 
heads of cowries for her release; this was paid and the girl was 
handed to her mother. 

Oluyole left Abemo for Ibadan by way of Ijaye where he spent 
5 days with Kurumi, and both of them being offended at Ayo's 
conduct the fate of Abemo was thereupon settled and sealed. 

§ 2. The Destruction of Abem^ 

According to the settled arrangement between Kurumi and 
Oluyole during the stay of the latter at Ijaye, their movements 
were to be kept private as much as possible. Abem6 was to be 
taken by surprise in order to avoid the necessity of a siege. The 
Ibadan forces were to join those of Ijaye and in order to do this 
without their objective being known, Oluyole gave it out that the 
Aseyin was paying a visit to Ibadan and that they should go out 
and escort him to the town. 

As the head chief went outside the town wall, no war-chief 
dared remain behind ; hence, all went out according to custom. 

They went as far as Ijaye but when they saw the Ijaye army 


also marshalled forth then they knew that they were going against 

It was quite late before Ayg knew that evil was determined 
against him. He went out that morning to review his troops. 
Two of his generals Aruna and Ajadi being accused of treason 
were before him, and whilst he was enquiiing into the charge they 
were interrupted by the approach of the enemy. The intrepid 
warrior at once jumped upon his horse, and dashed into the ranks 
of the enemy. He performed feats of valour that day, he broke 
through their ranks, had his horse shot under him and himself 
wounded in the leg. But he was not dispirited ; he called for another 
horse and fought bravely at the head of his people. The men of 
Abemg, however were overpowered by numbers, for whilst fighting 
braveh' at one gate of the town, the Ibadans entered by another 
and set fire to the town. All hopes being now lost, Ayo escaped 
with a few horsemen and followers to Ago Oja (the present Oyo) 
being hotly pursued by Ijaye and Ibadan troops. 

In order not to incur the displeasure of KurGmi and Oluyole 
the two leading chiefs of the country whom he hoped hereafter 
would be his back stay. Prince Atiba of Ago Oja told Ayo that he 
could not protect him and consequently he should leave the town 
before his pursuers arrived there. Ayo took the way to Ojomgbodu 
on his way to Ilorin, but after a while on considering the humiliation 
of it all and the grave probabilities that lay before him, he chose 
death rather than dishonour. 

He dismounted at a certain spot and sat. under a tree, his horse 
standing by him. He sent away his little band of devoted followers 
in order to die alone like a soldier. Here he calmly awaited his 

According to one account, at the sight of them he sprang again 
upon his horse and made for them. He threw one Lakonu off his 
steed and brandishing his spear round and round him, exclaimed 
" But for Atiba you are a dead man," then the men opened fire 
upon him and he dropped down dead. 

But another account says he sat with calm dignity under the 
tree and offered no resistance whilst they showered their deadly 
weapons upon him and he dropped down dead. 

Thus perished one of the best and ablest of the Oyo or Yoruba 
generals. His remains were brought back to Ago Oja and interred 

Ayg like the late Ojo Amepo was a good horseman and one 
of the best generals of the day, but drink was his greatest vice, 
and to that may be attributed the cause of his ruin as well as that 
of Abem^. His aide-de-camp was nick-named Am u-igba-legb§-giri, 



i.e., one who grasps tight the sides of a drinking bowl ; because 
he himself was hardly inferior to his master in that respect as the 
name implies. 

Although the ruler of the town yet he often spent as much as 
three days and nights out of home attending " wakes " at night 
wherever he was invited, and during daytime dancing to the bMa 
drum in various quarters of the town hke the commonest citizen. 
He offered the right hand of fellowship to anyone who could drink 
like himself. 

He was by nature generous and merciful, in which respect he 
was most unlike his bloodthirsty peers of that age. As an 
instance of this a story was told of his favourite Amu-igba-legbe 
who on leaving the Bale's house quite late one night the worse 
for drink missed his way into his chief's harem, and slept by the 
side of one of his wives thinking he had got home ! When the 
woman awoke in the early hours of the morning, and saw a stranger 
by her side she cried out and roused the whole estabHshment. 

Amugba starting from his sleep being now sober, took in the 
situation at once and resigned himself to the only fate he felt sure 
was awaiting him under the circumstances. 

Overcome with fear he went home in great distress and when 
the matter was known in the house the whole compound was 
deserted for fear of the usual confiscation and punishment in such 
a case. Amugba expected nothing but death and when about noon 
he heard his chief's drum coming towards his house, he thought 
the fatal hour was come. Ayo entered and saw him trembling and 
attempting an apology ; he simply jeered at him and said : " Why 
are you looking so dejected ? Is it because you missed your way 
last night ? Never mind the mistake, let's go out and drink 
away yesterday's occurrence." 

Amugba thought it was only a stratagem to get him out of his 
house to be arrested and executed ; he followed, however, but 
was still dejected. Whilst drinking in a friend's house Ayo 
observed him still in that mood, and said to him with surprise, 
" Are you still downcast on account of yesterday's affair ? Why 
that is past and gone ; it only proved I can beat you in drink, for 
I drank far more than you did on that occasion, but was not in 
the least affected, whilst you, could not find your way home." 
So the matter passed off in jokes. 

Abemo and Ijaye were rival towns and the former had the 
sobriquet of " Abem6 siiru okg ilu bantatk " (Abemo small and 
compact, but the husband of a huge town) meaning Ijaye. 


Chaptek XV 


§ I. Prince Atiba : His Early Life and History 

Prince Atiba was the son of King Abiodun by an Akeitan 
woman. According to one account, he was born in the city of 
Oyo, his father died when he was but a child, and when Abiodun's 
children were being ill-treated by King Aole his mother fled with 
him to her own town in the country. 

Bat another account was of a more romantic interest and is 
more probable, as being characteristic of that age. According to 
this account, his mother, a slave at Gudugbu, was given as a hostage 
to the Alafin of Oyo. She had an intimate friend who was much 
distressed by this separation. After 8 or lo weary months, she 
was resolved at all costs to go up to the city to visit her friend with 
whom she had been associated from childhood. 

The Gudugbu hostage was too insignificant to be noticed among 
the crowd of women in the King's harem until- this strange visit 
of her friend drew the King's attention to her. The visitor from 
the country loitering within the precincts of the palace was asking 
all whom she saw coming from the women's quarters to call her 
Eni-Olufan one of the King's wives, but no one knew who that 
was. At length King Abiodun was told that a woman from the 
country was asking for one of his wives, and this unusual incident 
aroused the King's curiosity. The Gudugbu woman was called 
to his presence to state the object of her visit. She replied . — 
" May your majesty live long. The young woman from Gudugbu 
given as a hostage was my bosom friend, and for the past 8 months 
or more I have had no one to talk to, and hence I was resolved to 
visit her." 

The King then said to her, " Are you not afraid to come here 
and to enquire for my wife ? Suppose I add yourself to the harem 
or kill you or sell you ? " Sherephed, " For my friend's sake I am 
prepared to undergo any treatment, and if your majesty make a 
wife of me I shall be happy as my friend and I will see each other 
every day." 



The King greatly admired their friendship ; he gave permission 
for her to be lodged with her friend, and was by this led to pay some 
attention to the Gudugbu hostage. 

For three months these two friends enjoyed each other's company 
and as the King's wife was now in the way of becoming a mother, 
he was graciously pleased to send them home. He sent for both 
of them one morning, and after a few approbatory remarks 
on their friendship, he loaded them with presents, and said to his 
wife's friend, "I am sending your friend home with you in order 
that you may not fail to have some one to unbosom your mind to 
as hitherto. I make you both my deputy for that part of the 
country. All matters to be referred to Oyo will henceforth be 
brought to you for decision, all the tribute monies will be paid to 
you also, and as my wife will be unable to undertake a journey, 
I expect your visit here as often as you can come." With this 
instruction he dismissed them and sent several Eunuchs and Ilaris 
with them as escort and to commend them formally to the 
care and protection of the Bale of Gudugbu. Both these women 
returned to Gudugbu in quite a different capacity from that in 
which they left it. The little town was all astir on their arrival, 
and many were the private murmurs against Eni-Olufan's friend 
for the heavy responsibilities she had brought upon them. Great 
deference, however, was paid to them both, and they became 
practically the supreme rulers and judges of that district. The 
King's wife in course of time gave birth to a son who was named 
Atibk ; her friend also (who was a married woman) gave birth 
to a son named Onipede. The intimacy existing between the 
two mothers re-appeared also in the boys from childhood up to 

[This account is reconcilable with the first as it is possible that 
as an infant, Atiba may have been taken to Oyo to see his father, 
and may have been there till Aole's reign when the mother had to 
flee with him back to the country as stated above]. 

Atiba grew up a wild and reckless lad. When he was of age, his 
father ordered that the mother should apportion to him the tribute 
money of that district, this continued until the succeeding reign 
when the country was thrown into confusion and anarchy. 

This circumstance probably led his mother to remove with 
him from Gudugbu to Akeitan her own home. Here Atiba was 
under the care of his maternal uncle who was now head of the house 
and the family estate. 

Atiba was brought up as a tailor, but he preferred a wild and 
predatory life, for which the circumstances of the times afforded 
great opportunities. A story was told of him that once being very 


hungry, he asked his uncle for a yam, and the uncle not only refused 
it him, but took the opportunity of reprimanding him sharply 
for living the idle life of a kidnapper. " If I had lived on man- 
stealing like you," said he, " I could not have got any yam," 
But Yesufu the younger uncle felt sorry for his nephew and said 
to Atiba that whilst he (the uncle) was living, he (Atiba) would 
never suffer the pinch of hunger. This incident had its reward 
hereafter as will be noticed in its place. 

From Akeitan Prince Atiba made several incursions into the 
Gudugbu farms, and was generally a pest to the country round 

In order not to bring trouble on the Akeitan people, Atiba was 
urged to remove his residence to the town of Ago where he would 
find in Oja- the chief of that place a man of a like spirit to his own, 
of a warlike disposition, and he did so. 

But when Atiba arrived at Ago, Oja was strongly advised not 
to let him settle down there, because a man like him would eventu- 
ally become master of the town. Elebu, Oja's brother was the 
chief opponent. But Oja did not follow this advice. " How can 
I," said he "an ofhcer on the staff of the Kakanfo, and a title- 
bearer in the kingdom, turn away my prince ? " Oja continued 
friendly to him until his fall in the Kanla expedition. 

Their kidnapping expeditions were at that time chiefly directed 
against the Egbas in the Oke Ogun districts near Sagaun. They 
found them so simple and unsophisticated in those days that when 
a kidnapper had captured several of them and was in quest for 
more he had only to leave his cap or his spear or any other personal 
property by the side of them, and bid them wait for him there, and 
should another kidnapper fall in with them he was to be shown the 
sign of prepossession, and thus they would be left untouched until 
their captor returned. These captives never made any effort to 

Atiba rose to importance by committing acts of violence and 
extortion with impunity, from the great deference paid to his 
high birth. In that age of anarchy and confusion he collected 
around himself all lawless men, insolvent debtors, slaves who 
had deserted their masters. His wealth was continually aug- 
mented by fresh marauding expeditions, his men behaving like 
the Jamas, himself at the head of them. 

By his address and largess Atiba won to himself the following 
chiefs of Oyo, viz., Aderinko, Ladejobi, Olumole, Oluwajo, Lgsk 
Oluwaiye (the Alagba), Adefumi, Lakonu, Told Maje, Falade, 
and Gbenla. 

His slaves who had horses and a large retinue each were : — 


Eni-d'Olgrun (who subsequently became the Apeka), Galajimg, 
Otelowo and Ogboinu his mounted trumpeter. 

Elebu succeeded his brother as the Bale of Ago. As might be 
expected he was not on good terms with Atiba ; but the latter 
had already risen to such a height of greatness and popularity 
that Elebu could neither crush him nor turn him out of the town ; 
they remained antagonists till Elebu was drowned in the river 
during the Gbodo war, as related above. 

Before Elebu's death, Ajanaku of Ilorin to whom Ago Oja 
paid tribute summoned them both to Ilorin and asked Shitta his 
sovereign to effect a reconciliation between them. The turban 
was given to both as a sign of brotherhood in the Moslem faith. 
This reconciliation was only on the surface, but by no means real. 
It was at this time that all children born at Ago had Moslem 
names given to them and many adults and aged people 
changed theirs in order to be in good favour with the Jamas of Ilorin, 
who then infested the country 

Atiba had nearly lost his life in the Gbodo expedition; his horse 
was shot dead under him and theBaribas were pressing hard behind 
him in pursuit. His life-long friend Onipede galloped past him 
paying no heed to the despairing cry of his friend and master: 
" Onipede here am I, will you leave me behind to perish ? " Onipede 
notwithstanding this rushed on into the river Ogun and swam 
across safe to the other side. But when Atiba's uncle, Yesufu came 
up and saw him in such straits he dismounted and offered him his 
horse. Atiba declined to take it, but Yesufu forced him to accept 
it, saying " Even if I perish in this war I know that you will take 
care of my children." Yesufu was a powerful swimmer and he 
assisted both the horse and the rider safe to the other side. 
Adekidero the Lemomu also offered his own horse to be used 
alternately with Yesufu's until they reached home. 

Onipede did not wait for him although he was riding on a horse 
bought for him by the very Prince he now deserted. It was even 
reported of him that after he had reached the other side of the 
river, he halted to watch with amusement the distress and danger 
of his friend battling with the swift current until Yesufu came to 
his assistance, and that on the Prince's reaching the other side 
Onipede came up with a smile and an untimely joke saying " The 
intrepid warrior that you are, I did not know that a riveF 
current could conquer you." The Prince said nothing, and showed 
no sign of resentment, but Onipede from that day became a 
marked man, because it was evident to Atiba that his death 
would have excited no feelings of sympathy and regret in 


Up to this time Onipede enjoyed his entire confidence. What- 
ever he said or did was indisputable ; any criminal pardoned by 
him was free, and latterly he would not even take the trouble of 
acquainting the Prince with all that he did. He was 
known beyond the confines of the kingdom as the confidant of 
the Prince and all foreigners residing at Ago were under his pro- 
tection. He was always attended by a large retinue of foot and 
of horsemen as a Prince, whenever he paid visits in town or in 
going to his farm. He was the greatest favourite at the Prince's 
palace ; no one was allowed to see the Prince or obtain favours 
from him except through Onipede. The love Atiba had for this 
companion of his childhood and youth made him bhnd to all 
his faults until his eyes were opened by the incident narrated 

Onipede at the zenith of his popularity quite forgot himself and 
regarded the Prince rather as his equal or co-partner, although as 
a matter of fact he was in no way equal to one of his war-chiefs 
or his notable slaves enumerated above. Still all of them used to 
show him due respect and pay him marked deference as one above 
them, so he came to set himself as a rival of his master ; but the 
incident of the Gbodo disaster was the means of his fall. 

On their arrival home from the unsuccessful war, they hastened 
to fortify the town against an expected invasion. Atiba attended 
by all his great warriors was digging a trench right round the 
town, when Onipede rode up attended by a retinue of mounted 
servants. Atiba could no longer suppress his anger but ordered 
him to take up a digger and work like any of the common labourers. 
For one who had always lived an easy life Onipede's hands became 
blistered and sore. There are two accounts given of his death : 
one was that after this Atiba ordered him to be slain and buried 
in an upright posture when they returned home ; and that his 
slaves carried out his orders by showering darts upon Onipede, 
cut off his head and buried him in a house near the present Akesan 

But a more probable account given of his death was as follows : 
The Prince and his servants began by slighting him, the latter 
losing no opportunity of showing him marks of disrespect. He 
now observed that he was no longer in favour but the exalted 
position he had already attained placed him above fear ; and indeed 
the Prince could not attack him in an open civil fight without 
dire results, for he was the commander of some of the greatest 
war-chiefs in the town. An opportunity at length was offered 
when he was unattended. He met Atiba where he was busy 
with his servants storing up hisBere grass, and there and then he 


ordered his slaves to club him to death. Such was the end of 

By the death of Elebu, Oja's children lost their natural protector 
and guardian, and the people their chief. Prince Atiba who was 
aiming at the supreme power placed none of Oja's children who 
were capable as head of the house and chief of the town, but rather 
his younger brother Ailumo, whom he knew to be weak in intellect. 
He placed him over the house with the title of Mggaji till after the 
Eleduwe war, he should be formally installed as Bale of 
Ago. In the meantime Atiba constituted himself the administrator 
of the affairs of the town in the place of Oja's children and over- 
shadowed even the Mogaji himself. Thus the fears of the late 
Elebu were fully realized and the town of Ago practically passed 
out of the hands of the children of Oja the founder. 

§ 2. Atiba's Accession to the Throne 

That Atiba was aspiring to the throne was evident to all when 
they were assembled for the Eleduwe war. He was even then far 
more powerful than the King and all eyes were turned upon him 
as the one who would eventually save the country from the Fulani 
yoke, In order to obtain the object of his ambition he plotted 
with others to bring about the downfall of the King. He bought 
the support of the two most powerful war-chiefs left in the land, 
viz., Oluyoleof Ibadan by promising him the title of Ibasorun, and 
KuriJmi of Ijaye by promising him that of Kakanfo. 

After the fall of the ancient capital and the death of King Oluewu 
the crown was offered to Lagiiade, but he dechned it and advised 
that it should be offered to that powerful aspirant Prince Atiba, 
of Ago Oja; the only one with men and means, who seemed able 
to cope with the Ilorins and save the country from tyranny and 
oppression. This was done, and Atiba accepted it with the general 
consent and approval of all, but it was with the distinct under- 
standing that he would lead the people home from Saki, Gboho, 
Kihisi, Ilorin and other places whither they had taken refuge. 
For this purpose Prince Lajide. son of Onsolu, and Fabiyi with 
32 other messengers were sent by the Oyq Mesi at Kihisi and Igboho 
to invite him home to the ancient capital. They were his guests 
till the coronation, after which he detained them permanently 
at Ago and conferred on Prince Lajide the title of Ona'sokun. 

After he was estabhshed on the throne, he sent Lakonu one of 
his powerful chiefs to Kihisi and Gboho for the remnant of the 
Kings' wives, and the eunuchs and other court officials that could 
be found in those regions. 

Thus Ago passed out of the hands of Oja's family and became 


the royal city of Yoruba and as such it was no longer called 
Ago-Oja but Oyo as the AlAfin now resides there. And hence 
it is often styled by way of disparagement Ago-d'Oyg (Ago which 
became Qyg). This is the present city of Oyo. 

§ 3. Conferring of Titles 

At the conferring of titles and re-organization of the kingdom 
the AlAfin confirmed on those who came to him from Kihisi and 
Gboho the titles they had formerly borne. Those who did not 
care to leave the more salubrious north for forest lands were 
superseded in their offices. 
The following are those who were confirmed in their titles. 
Name. Title. 

Makaaiye 0h6ta 

Odusola Agbakin 

Ariori SWu 

The following were those newly conferred at the present Oyo. 

Obagbolu Ona-modek^ 

Gbenla Lagunk 

Aiyewun (from Ise5dn) Alapini 

Ailes6 Tetu 

Adefalu Olokuesin 

Ailumg (Qja's brother) Asipa 

Yesufu (Atiba's uncle) Parakoyi* 

The following were titles conferred on members of the loyal 
family, not all of whom however were deserving. 
Olukokun (grandson of King Onisile) Atingisi 

Telaokbki Magaji lyajin 

Abioro (son of King Ajagbo) Arole Oba 

Idowu (son of King Ojigi) Olusami 

The following were commoners, but favourites and formerly 
companions-in-arms of Atiba, on whom were conferred titles 
usually borne by members of the Royal Family exclusively : — 
Falade Agunpopo 

Lakonu Ogigimagi 

Ladejobi Olosun 

Toki La'dilu 

Eniaiyewu the Alapini of the ancient city was still alive when 
Aiyewun was brought from Iseyin for the same office. The 
former remained and died at Saki. 

^ In recognition of his kind services to him at the Gbodo 


Ailgs^ had been created chief of the Tetus (they are 150 in 
number) before those from the ancient city arrived to claim their 
rights ; they had to be satisfied wth minor ranks. 

Ancient Oyo was a very large city comprising the following 
wards : — Oke Eso, Modade, Molaba, Nsise-Ogan, Ntetu, Ondasa, 
On§e-awo, Aremu, Ile-Ologbo, Ajofa, Isale-Ogede. 

Now, Ago d'Oyo was very small in comparison, and hence the 
AlAfin adopted forcible means to enlarge it. Several of the 
surrounding towns and villages were depopulated and the inhabit- 
ants transported to the new city e.g. Akeitan, Apara, Idod§, 
Ajagba Seke, Gudugbu, Jabktk, Ojomgbodu, Aguwo, Opapa and 
Ijoga. These places were all within lo or 20 miles from Ago. 
The King's army would surround each of them by night, and at 
break of day, the inhabitants were offered the choice of a peace- 
able migration to the new city or (in case of resistance) the town 
would be destroyed. Thus they were transported with all their 
household effects and as they arrived the King assigned to each a 
quarter of the town for their residence. Thus Igaga was taken 
in the month of May during the Egugun festival. 

Higher Titles 

(a) The Basgrun. — Oluyole of Ibadan received the title of 
Ibasorun as was conditionally promised him at the Eleduwe 
war. He based his claim on his descent from Basorun Yamba 
whose cognomen was Ok61o Ogun. His father's name was 
Olokuoye, his mother was Agbonrin daughter of King Abiodun 
and thus he was the AlAfin 's nephew. 

Oluyole now came to Ovo to have his title conferred upon him 
by the King. 

This was a new departure from the old custom for the Basorun 
to reside in the country. His right place is in the city being the 
next man to the King, and the chief of the seven principal 
councillors of state comprising the Oyo Mesi. He, moreover, 
has distinct official duties to perform at the principal annual 
festivals especially at theBere at which he is the chief actor. 

But this new departure must be allowed in order to meet the 
exigencies of the times. The King could not be secure on his 
throne if he were to cause a disaffection to arise between himself 
and the powerful war-chiefs of Ibadan and Ijaye by denying 
them the titles of their ancestors which they were so ambitious 
to obtain. 

But a provision had already been made in the constitution 
for performing the state ceremonies in the absence of the Basorun : 
his place could be filled by either the Otun'wefa, the Qna Onse« 


Awo, or the Ariwo. Thus what would have proved a serious 
constitutional difficulty had already been obviated by past 
experience, and adequately provided for. 

(b) The Are-ona-Kakanfo or Yoruba Field Marshal. This 
title was now conferred upon Kurumi of Ijaye according to the 
conditional promise made to him also at the Eleduwe war by 
Prince Atiba. He was undoubtedly the greatest Yoruba general 
and tactician of the day in the Yoruba country. He was a great 
friend of the King and during his term of office he shielded the 
sovereign against the encroachment on his prerogatives of his 
nephew of Ibadan for he was by no means loyal to him. He also 
on this occasion went to Oyo to have the title conferred on him. 
Thus it came to pass that the two most distinguished titles next 
to the sovereign were held by the chiefs of the two largest towns in 
the south, viz. that of Basorun the head of all civil affairs, and that 
of Kakanfo the head of the military department. 

State Policy. — In order that a collision may not take place be- 
tween these two warlike towns, so contiguous to each other, a 
compact was now arrived at between the AlAfin a,nd his principal 
chiefs : — 

1. That they should make it their primary aim to defend what 
was left of the Yoruba country, and gradually regain if they could 
their lost provinces under the Fulanis of Ilorin. 

2. As the last King died in war, the sovereign should not be 
allowed to go to war any more, but conffiie himself to all religious, 
civil, and political matters (external relations) on behalf of the 

3. That the Ibadans were to protect all Yoruba towns to the 
north and north-east, and meet whatever danger might arise in 
those quarters, to have a free hand over all Ijesas and Ekitis, 
and the eastern provinces generally, to reduce them to subjection. 

4. That the Ijayes should protect all Yoruba towns of the 
western provinces, and meet whatever danger appeared in that 
direction and carry on their operations against the Sabes and dis- 
loyal Popos. 

Thus the disintegration of the country would be arrested. 

But the ancient cities of Iluku, Saki, Gboho and Kihisi with 
their towns, containing the remnant of the citizens of the ancient 
Oyo and members of the royal family preferred not to be placed 
under the protection of either of these powers, but under the King 
direct ; and this was allowed. Thus it was hoped that in time the 
unity of the kingdom would be regained, and those who still longed 
for their old homes would be able to return thither. 

In this way it appeared latterly that the province under the 


AlAfin is small, and foreigners ignorant of the history of the 
country are apt to consider Ibadan of more importance than 
Oyo especially when by the destruction of Ijaye the former claimed 
the overlordship of the territories formerly under Ijaye. 

Provincial Affairs 

The affairs of the new Metropohs having been settled both the 
Basgrun and the Kakanfo returned home to arrange their own 
local affairs. 

Ibadan. At this time the war-chief next to the Iba himself 
who was head and shoulders above all his compeers at Ibadan 
was chief Elepo, consequently the title of Ibalogun was offered 
him ; but he declined it, for reasons which no one could tell. 
He was urged over and over again in pubhc as well as in private, 
both by the Basorun and his brother chiefs to accept it, but he 
declined, saying his name Elepo alone was enough for him. And 
yet he would submit to no one but the Basorun alone who was his 
old colleague. The title of Balogun was, therefore, conferred 
upon Oderinlg. 

The following were the titles conferred upon distinguished 
war-chiefs : — 

Names. Titles. 

Od§rinlg Balogun or commander-in-chief. 

Lajumgke Otun i.e. general commanding the right 

Opeagbe Osi i.e. general commanding the left wing 

Toki Seriki 

Babalgla Asipa 

Oyesile Abese 

Ogunrenu Sarumi or chief of the cavalry 

Yerombi Agbakin 

Dele Areagoro 

Ijaye. — The Are-ona-Kakanfo of Ijaye was a bloodthirsty 
tyrant. He put to death all the chiefs rising into power who 
might become his rivals. His Balogun's name was Olasilo 
alias Ogun-koroju, a Mohammedan, and the friend of Balogun 
Oderinle of Ibadan. He was the only man at Ijaye for whom 
Kurumi entertained any regard. One Ajayi was his Areagoro, 
and this was about all the titles given at Ijaye. Nevertheless 
there were other powerful men at Ijaye such as Lakusk, AgSlna 
Epo, Fanyaka, Akigla, Asegbe, Amgdu and Labudanu. Lahan 
after the destruction of Abemg came to reside at Ijaye. 

Kurumi usurped all power both civil and religious ; all were 
centred on him or his family, and all the profits accruing from 


them flowed to his exchequer. His brother Popoola was the AlagbS, 
or Egugun high priest, himself the Mogba or head Sango priest. 
His chief executioner was one J6mgban. The Kakanfo was 
more dreaded at Ijaye than even the gods as the common sajnng 
shows " Are npe o o ndifa ? Bi If a fo rere ti Are fg ibi nko ? (You 
receive the Are's summons and you are divining with your Ifa ? 
What if Ifa is propitious and the Are is not ?) He did not value 
the life of a human being more than that of a dog. For the least 
offence he ordered the offender to execution and plundered his 
house. But he was more of a terror to rank and station, for 
to the poor, he granted liberty and redress. 

The Agbamaja War 

It has become the custom at Ibadan that a newly created 
Balogun should lead the army out on an expedition in order to 
prove his worth to the title and thereby commend himself to the 
respect of the soldiery. But no town at this time gave any cause 
of offence for an attack, all the same the Balogun was sent 
against Ede- —a town under their own protection. But it would 
appear that Elepo vetoed the destruction of Ede and so they 
marched on towards Ilobu. 

The people of Ilobu became alarmed. They had not committed 
any offence, but although they were assured of peaceful measures 
yet they brought a large amount of presents to the Ibadan camp 
to buy off their hostihty, and showed every sign of submission. 
All the same, the soldiery becoming restive from inaction would 
have sacked the town but for Elepo, especially when it happened 
that lightning struck a house in the town and the war boys became 
wild, and rushed to the spot under pretext of doing homage to 
Sango, while others were already scahng the walls when E16po and 
his men undertook to beat them off and save Ilobu. From that 
town and the surrounding villages presents came pouring into the 
Ibadan camp but instead of going to the Balogun all went to 
Elepo, before whose tents all the presents were piled up. He 
neither directed them to the commander-in-chief nor made use 
of them for himself. He ruled the army according to his will, 
and consequently the Balogun was indignant at this usurpation 
of his rights and the other chiefs sympathized with him. After 
frittering away their time doing nothing the men became dis- 
heartened and began to steal away home. Hence this expedition 
was termed " Agbamaja," i.e. fully armed but engaging in no fight. 

The Basorun at home was kept informed of all that was going 
on at the seat of war and when they arrived at home a mass 
meeting was held of all the war-chiefs and men and the whole of 


them complained bitterly against Elepo ; he was accused to his 
face of usurping the rights of the Balogun when he had himself 
declined the office, but on account of the love and respect they had 
for him they were prepared to let bygones be bygones, only he 
must prostrate before the Balogun and offer an apology and the 
matter would end there He apologised but would never bemean 
himself by prostrating before the Balogun. This last act therefore 
set a seal upon his downfall ; his humiliation was there and then 
decided upon. 

The next step taken was to deprive him of his principal subordi- 
nate war-chiefs by conferring town titles on each of them, making 
them members of the town council with equal votes. Elepo's 
eyes were now open to his own folly, but almost too late. At 
the next public meeting, he apologized again but was too proud to 
prostrate before any one save the Basorun alone. He was told 
all round that his apology was accepted and the pardon granted. 
He went home glad at heart, but was soon to be undeceived, for 
when he went the following day to the houses of all the principal 
chiefs to thank them, not one of them would see him ; at every 
house he called he was told " The master is not at home." He 
understood the full import of this, and moreover none of his subordi- 
nate chiefs called at his house as before, and all matters in his 
quarter of the town were taken straight to the Balogun. Thus 
Elepo saw himself isolated. 

§ 4. The Osogbo War. The Ilorins Checkmated 

After a short pause that followed the Eleduwe war, the aggressive 
spirit of the Ilorins once more impelled them to the accomplish- 
ment of their aim, viz., the subversion of the entire Yoruba 
country, and hence for the third time they laid siege to Osogbo. 
The command this time was entrusted to their brave and experi- 
enced general AH, the Hausa Balogun of Ilorin. 

Osogbo was closely besieged, and terrible battles were fought 
between the assailants and defenders to the advantage of the 
former. When the king of Osogbo found the Ilorins too strong for 
him he sent to Ibadan for help. 

It now devolved upon the Ibadans as defenders of the north 
and north-east to meet the coming danger. They sent them some 
auxiliaries under the leadership of one Ob^le alias Mobitcin, and 
Alade Abinupagiin. As this force proved insufficient for the 
defence of the town, another contingent was sent under a more 
experienced leader. But still the Ilorins were gaining ground 
after every battle until the besieged and their auxiliaries were 
confined to the thickets surrounding the town which in all Yoruba 


towns were reserved for the purposes of defence. The Ibadan 
contingent thereupon sent an express report home to theBasorun 
that they would soon be overpowered and the town taken if timely 
aid was not forthcoming. 

The Basorun unwilling that the Fulanis and Jamas of Ilorin 
should be masters of the forest lands to which they had been 
driven from their homes in the plain, was resolved to raise the 
siege at all cost. It was with the Ibadans a matter of now or 
never and hence the Balogun was instructed to endeavour to deal 
a decisive blow to the Ilgrins once and for all, for should he fail 
now the Fulanis would be masters of the whole Yoruba country. 

Balogun Oderinlg now marched out with the whole of the Ibadan 
mighty men save Elepo and the Basorun, the former having been 
rejected by the war-chiefs for his actions at the late Agbamaja 
expedition. TheBasorun approved of this resolve and therefore 
Elepo stayed at home, but he felt himself far too exalted to care 
for any of them. 

When the Ibadan army arrived at the seat of war and saw the 
situation they had some misgivings as to the probabihty of success 
without the aid of Elepo their champion. They could not show 
their face in the open field for fear of the Ilorin horse, and for 
about 20 days after their arrival at Osogbo, they also could not 
fight outside the town thickets. 

The Basorun himself having some doubts as to the hopes of 
success of his generals in the absence of Elepo was much depressed 
in mind on hearing the news from the seat of war, and he was 
minded to send Elepo to meet them ; he gave him a cow to worship 
his god On and told him to prepare to join his comrades in the field. 

The Ibadan war-chiefs hearing this were fired with jealousy lest 
the honour of the victory might be his and hence were resolved to 
risk a battle at all cost. Again and again they held councils of 
war, and at length they fixed a day for the venture. Still they 
were afraid to attack the florins during the morning hours, Osogbo 
being practically in a plain, the Ilorin horse might have the advan- 
tage of them with disastrous results : from prudence therefore they 
resolved to make the attack in the afternoon, as they might be 
able to hold on until dusk when the florins would no longer be 
able to use their horses to advantage, or if defeated, the shades 
of night would assist them in their retreat. 

About 2 p.m. the standard of the Ibadan army left the gate of 
Osogbo for the battlefield. Again, another council of war was held 
and it was finally resolved that they should not proceed 
until dark, as it was necessary that their movements be as private 
as possible. About sunset they were again on the move and the 


vanguards were instructed to keep a strict watch and arrest anyone 
suspected as a spy on their movements. 

About a mile from the Ilorin camp they halted and arranged 
the order of the attack. The Osogbo army and the earlier auxil- 
iaries were to maintain the centre of the battle, Chiefs Abitiko 
and Lajubu to command the right wing, Balogun Oderinlo with 
the rest of the Ibadan war-chiefs to form the left wing of the army. 
About midnight the Ilorin camp was attacked on all sides. The 
watch word was Elo ni owo odo ? (The fare of the ferry ?) [The 
river Osun had to be crossed in entering Osogbo from the south. 
Any one who could not tell was known to be an enemy.] The 
first camp attacked was that of the Elese, and as soon as they 
rushed in, they set it on fire. The Elese himself was shot dead as 
soon as he showed his face at the tent door. A panic seized the 
whole Ilorin army thus startled from their beds ; they could 
not offer the slightest resistance, they simply melted away ! 
Those who fell by the hands of their own friends to make way for 
their hasty flight were probably more than those who fell by the 
hands of their enemies. Several who summed up courage enough 
to saddle their horses had not the presence of mind to loose them 
and were caught in the stables digging spurs into the poor beasts 
and wondering why they would not go, forgetting that they were 
still tethered by the feet. 

But Ali the commander-in-chief was calm and resolute ; he 
ordered his horse to be saddled, and gathering around him a 
goodly portion of his cavalry they dashed through the ranks of 
the Ibadan army ; these quickly making a way for them to gallop 
through without daring to oppose them, especially as numbers 
of the men were scattered about on plundering bent. 

The principal Ilorin war-chiefs captured in this defeat were : — 

1. Jimba the head slave of the Emir of Ilorin. 

2. One of the sons of Ah the commander-in-chief. 

3. Chiet Lateju and 

4. Ajikobi the Yoruba Balogun of Ilorin. 

The first two were released and sent home privately by the 
Ibadan war-chiefs, a form of chivalrous etiquette among the 
war-chiefs. The latter two being Yorubas by .birth were regarded 
rather as traitors to their country, and were sent home to Ibadan 
as distinguished captives of war. 

The Basorun sentenced Lateju to death alleging that it was in 
his house that King Oluewu, the last of the ancient Oyo, was 
fettered when taken at the Eleduwe war, before he was put to 
death. That was the ostensible charge but the chief reason 
really was because Oluyole's wives fell into Lat§ju's hands at 


the collapse of that expedition, and he was not chivalrous enough 
to release them and send them to him as a brother chief. 

Ajikobi being a more distinguished personage was sent to the 
AlAfin of Oyo for capital punishment. 

The messengers with the illustrious captive met the King 
engaged in one of his annual festivals, and he ordered that the 
feti de joie his servants were then firing should be directed on 
Ajikobi. This was- accordingly done, and he was roasted to death 
with gunpowder. 

Besides a large number ot captives the Ibadans captured 
numbers of horses but very few of them were brought home. 
These hardy people cared very little then for the luxury of riding 
on horseback : what they cared for more was the horses' tails 
upon which to tie amulets as preventives against bullets in war. 
These were always a part of their war kits. The only attention 
bestowed on the hundreds of tailless horses now roaming about 
the field was for replenishing their larder as occasion required ! 

This victory at Osogbo was a most important one and forms a 
turning point in Yoruba history. It saved the Yoruba country 
as such from total absorption by the Fulanis as a tributary state. 
From this time forth the power of the Ilorins for an independent 
aggressive warfare in Yoruba land was for ever broken and the 
Ibadans gained the ascendancy. The Ilorins without losing sight 
of their ultimate objective to '' dip the Koran in the sea," i.e. the 
subjugation of the entire Yoruba land, henceforth contented them- 
selves with allying themselves now with one, and then- with the 
other of the contending tribes with the hope of ultimately weaken- 
ing the whole, so that eventually the entire country might fall an 
easy prey into their hands. 

That the AlAfin did not seize this opportunity to gather 
all the forces of the kingdom and strike a final blow at the enemy 
was a matter of surprise to many, but a great dread was still 
entertained of meeting the cavalry in the plain, in which case it 
would not be that of Ilgrin alone, but also those of Sokoto and 
Gando. Hence the return home to the ancient capital was fraught 
with danger, the probabihty of their being continually harassed 
and attacked and taken by surprise being very great. 

Other reasons also have been advanced for remaining in their 
present position, among which was the comparative proximity 
to the coast and greater facilities for trade. As new generations 
sprang up who knew Httle or nothing of the old country they grew 
less and less disposed to abandon the comparative safety and 
advantages of the present position for the old cities with all the 
attendant risks, however fertile and salubrious they might be. 


After the siege of Osogbo was raised, Ibokun an Ijesa town not 
far from Osogbo was taken by the Ibadans, being one of the tribu- 
tary towns and allies of Ilorin. On the approach of the enemy, 
having heard of the defeat of the Ilorins at Osogbo, Kusi the 
Ilorin Resident of the town escaped to Ilorin leaving Ibokun 
to its fate. 

§ 5. The Expulsion of Elepo from Ibadan 

Chief Elepo not being allowed by his colleagues to go with them 
to the Osogbo expedition, and having heard of their success marched 
out with his own troops against Otefan, a Yoruba town in the 
western province, which he took, and returned home with many 
captives and much booty by which he satisfied the cravings of his 
war boys, whose loyalty to him prevented them from going with 
their comrades to a successful expedition. 

After his return from Otefan, Elepo was told by the Basorun 
that the other war-chiefs in the field had sent home to say that 
he should leave the town, alleging that he was heard to have said 
that they could not achieve any victory without his leadership, 
and now that the Ilorins had received a crushing defeat at their 
hands without his presence, it was evident they could do without 
him. Whether this message was actually sent or whether it was 
an arrangement concocted between the Basorun and the war-chiefs 
is not certain, but as a matter of fact the whole of them stood 
in dread of him and he was also an object of envy and jealousy. 
It is evident that if the Basorun had been as true to him as he was 
loyal to the Basorun such a question could not have arisen at all. 
Elepo was said to have been the greatest general Ibadan ever 
produced ; before him and after him there has yet been none 
to be compared to him whose very name strikes terror and confusion 
in all around. Eyen the Basorun himself was secretly afraid of 
him, as with one breath he could upset him and his government, 
and yet there has never been a chief at Ibadan so humble, so 
loyal and devoted to his chief as Elepo was to the Basorun. But 
for him Oluyole could never have attained to his present position 
nor could have maintained it for a month, before his murder or 
expulsion would have ended his career. 

Oluyole was blind to his own interests when he was arranging 
this plot against Elepo. Elepo on the other hand, unsuspicious 
of the intrigues of his chief, was negotiating through him with 
the other chiefs. He loved and trusted him too well for him to 
entertain the slightest doubt of his good faith. 

As the war-chiefs were on their homeward march, threatening 
messages were said to have been sent to Elepo through the Basorun ; 


the latter, in order that he might be able to accomphsh his design, 
ill-advised Elepo to leave his house a while, assuring him that 
all would be right in the end. He knew quite well that as long as 
Elepo was in his own house their plansmust fail, for no one would 
dare to face the lion in his den. 

Atipo his brother at once suspected the intriguer by such 
advice, and asked, " Why should it be deemed necessary for the 
Mogaji (i.e. Elepo) to leave his house when you the chief were 
employing your good offices for him ? Which of the war-chiefs 
would be bold enough either to go against your declared wish or 
to attack Elepo backed by his chief the Basorun ? " But the 
Basorun evaded the question ; on the contrary he kept pressing 
the point with great urgency knowing that once Elepo left his 
house he would never be allowed to return to it. 

Elepo disheartened by the bad faith of his hitherto trusted 
lord jdelded with pain' and disappointment only out of respect 
to him. He removed all his effects to the Basorun's house as 
well as all the captives and booty from the late Otefan expedition. 
Thus unmindful of the good Elepo had done him when he was 
somewhat similarly situated after the O^a expedition, Oluyole 
requited him with ingratitude out of sheer jealousy ; he desired 
to wield an absolute power and felt he could not safely do so 
with such a man under him, and thus he plotted to gain his end 
at the expense of a faithful and loyal friend and colleague. 

When the war-chiefs were nearer home, Oluyole told Elepo 
that he had failed in his negotiations with them and that they 
threatened a civil war in case he sided with him, and consequently 
should Elepo leave the town he, the Basorun, would arrange 
matters with them so that he might return home in peace. 

By this Elepo saw plainly the intrigues of his friend and master. 
Thrice he asked him pointedly " Do you really mean me to leave 
the town ? " Each time the reply was " Yes for the present but 
all will be right in the end." Then chiet Elepo uttered the following 
parable : — " Once upon a time the leopard was king of the beasts, 
and the god Orisa was the only object of his dread. The Orisa's 
house was built in the open fields, and he was protected with an 
earthenware pot. The beasts of the field had no respect for 
Orisa but used to walk and graze around the pot with which he 
was covered without incurring any harm. But at the yearly 
festival when king Leopard headed all the beasts to worship 
the Orisa, to their surprise, he used to prostrate at a distance, 
and do homage by putting earth on his head, and never allowed 
any of the beasts to approach too near lest they give offence to 
the Orisa. The beasts used to say among themselves ' And why 


all this precaution ? We often grazed around that pot without 
experiencing any harm, can Oiisa kill at all as king Leopard would 
have us believe ? ' Now upon one such occasion when the Leopard 
and all the beasts in his train were prostrating at a distance, the 
Orisa said to the Leopard ' Why not allow these my children to 
draw near to me ? ' The Leopard rephed, ' O most adorable Orisa, 
the beasts you would have to approach your sacred presence are 
ignorant creatures that know not your worth ; were they allowed 
to do so they will tread on the mat on which you are seated and 
will soon after end by treading on yourself.' This parable is 
for you, Basorun. The war-chiefs you are making so much of 
do not know your worth, they pay honours to you only on my 
account, and should I leave the town as you say, they will soon 
tread upon the mat on which you are seated and finally upon 

After this Elepo left the town with about 1,000 followers and 
retired first to Ipara a town in Ijebu Remo and resided there for 
a while. 

Civil War at Ibadan 

Not long after the departure of El^po the truth of his parable 
became quite evident, the prophecy had all but obtained a terrible 

Enriched by the treasures of the expelled chieftain, and his 
wealth further augmented by the portion allotted to him by his 
war-chiefs from the successful expedition of Osogbo, Oluyole 
became much elated, feeling himself now the sole and absolute 
master of the town of Ibadan without the fear of any possible 
rival. But it was not long before an insurrection was raised 
against him ; Chiefs Olubodun, Akiliyi, Atipo, Lajubu, Akinlabi 
and Ogidi took up arms against him and the whole town was soon 
in an uproar. Nothing but the mere chance of their leader 
Olubodun being killed before the action really commenced 
brought the rising to a sudden close. 

One of OluyQle's men from the roof of his house espied Olubodun 
hastening to the scene of action and as he m.ust pass by the corner 
of his house to gain the main street, the man raised the thatch 
of his roof, levelled his gun at Olubodun at very close quarters 
and shot him dead on the spot ! The suddenness and unexpected- 
ness with which this was accomplished created a panic among his 
followers and it spread instantly among the other chiefs and their 
men, and they fled precipitately pursued by Oluyole's men. 
Akiliyi and Ogidi were taken but the rest escaped to Ijaye. Akihyi 
was executed. Ogidi was pardoned, but was ordered out of his 


house and district at Isale Ijebu, the former being levelled to the 
ground and left in ruins, and he had to occupy a small house at 
Isale Osun under strict surveillance. 

[The site of the house was subsequently given to the Rev. D. 
Hinderer the first missionary of the Church Missionary Society at 
Ibadan in 1851 and has since become the C.M.S. station at Oke 


Of the three men who escaped to Ijaye after the tragic end of 
Olubgdun, Lajubu somehow effected a return home and was 
pardoned, but Atipo and Akinlabi did not return but made Ijaye 
their home permanently. 

They occupied the house of one Akiola who was put to death 
by the Are of Ijaye under the following painful circumstances : — 
In one af their expeditions to the Sabe provinces Akiola captured 
a young maiden of whom he became enamoured ; he first shared 
his bed with her, and on the return home of the expedition this 
captive was among others he apportioned to their chief Kurumi 
the Are of Ijaye. But the Are also was captivated by 
the charms of this young woman and he at once included her in 
his harem. And so it happened that on finding afterwards that 
she had already been tampered with, he became enraged with 
Akiola and constituted this a crime for which he murdered him ! 

Atipo and Akinlabi retaining the spirit and energy of Ibadan 
were restless at Ijaye ; they made two expeditions to the banks 
of the Niger on their own account, captured Ogodo in the first 
and Gbajigbo in the second expedition, and brought home many 
captives and much booty. 

After this Atipo went to Ipara to fetch his brother El^po to 
Ijaye by way of Ilugun. Elepo's followers had by this time 
dwindled to about 70 men, the rest having returned home to 
Ibadan weary of the inaction at Ipara. 

Oluyole became very jealous of the success and the popularity 
of these men at Ijaye, and Kurumi ever suspicious of any brave 
and distinguished man, readily listened to the insinuations of the 
former that these men would one day prove a danger to the state, 
that they would sooner or later desert him for Ilorin (their common 
enemy) and that Kurumi should at once dispose of them. 

Kurumi invited them both to a banquet and there, completely 
in his power, he murdered them both and seized all their property. 
Thus ended the career of these brave men of Ibadan and Ijaye. 

Chapter XVI 

After the events narrated above, the history of the Yorubas 
centred largely at Ibadan which, down to the time of the British 
Protectorate continued to attract to itself ardent spirits from 
every tribe and family all over the country, who made it their 
home, so that while the rest of the country was quiet, Ibadan was 
making history. 

An Episode. — The Osu War. — After the return of the Ibadans 
from the Ota war, and the civil war which placed Oluyole at the 
head of the government, Inakoju the Seriki died and was succeeded 
by one Ladanu. After his promotion, Ladanu led out an expedi- 
tion to Osu which turned out disastrous. He was accompanied 
by most of Oluyole's men, e.g , Akinsowon, Abipa, Aijenku and 
Erinle S^nku. 

Osu not being far from Ile§a the capital of the Ijesa country, 
the Ijesas, hearing of their approach, lay in ambush, and cut the 
Seriki's army in pieces. The Seriki himself in an attempt to rally 
his discomfited army was slain. Chiefs Akinsowon and Abipa 
were also slain leaving Aijenku and Erinle Sanku who escaped 
with difficulty alone to tell the tale. 

The Eleduwe war which followed soon after, and the Abemo and 
Osogbo wars subsequently, fully engaged the attention of the 
Ibadans ; now they were at leisure they were resolved to avenge 
the loss of their late Seriki. Balogun Oderinlg led out the whole 
Ibadan army. Their route lay through the Ede farms and there 
they were encamped for many days foraging. The of the 
capital joined by the army of Osu met them at Iloba which was 
4 hours to Osu eastward, and between 6 and 8 hours to Ile§a, 
Osu itself being about 6 hours to Ilesa. Here several battles were 
fought, and when the Ijesas could stand the fire of the Ibadans no 
longer, they evacuated the town, and the place was taken. The 
Ibadans followed up the victory to Osu their objective, but the 
town had been deserted ; they made no captives there but carried 
away booties, and returned home to Ibadan in triumph. After 
this there arose a series of neighbourly strifes all over the 




Whilst the revolutionary wars were raging all over the rest 
of the Yoruba country, the Fulanis devastating the Metropolitan 
province, the Oygs the Egba province, and the Ifes, Ijebus and Oygs 
striving for predominance in the south, the Ijesa and Ekiti 
provinces, save for the late Pole war, were enjoying the blessings 
of peace. Entrenched in their mountain fastnesses, they were 
safe from the Fulani horse and other foes. 

But it seems they were not to be exempt from the ban that hung 
over the rest of the Yoruba nation, and hence they commenced an 
internal strife among themselves, which led to their inviting 
outside help and resulted in their final subjugation. 

A^ye and Otun were two towns in the Efon and Ekiti districts 
contiguous to one another ; the people bear the same relationship 
to each other as the Egba bear towards the Oyos or Ijebus. They 
are all included under the term Ekiti. 

A feud arose between these two towns about their boundaries 
which culminated in a war in which Otun was worsted, but so 
determined on revenge was the Olotun (king of Otun) that he 
sought help from abroad ; he sent to Ibadan for that purpose 
and Balogun Oderinlo was sent out with the whole of the Ibadan 
army, and Akye was besieged. 

Finding that the Ibadans were too strong for them the Alaye 
(king of Aaye) sought help from Ilorin, and the Ilorin horse under 
their general Afunku appeared in the field in aid of Aciye. The 
choice fell on the Fulani Balogun as the Hausa and Yoruba 
Baloguns of the Ilorins had already failed at Osogbo. 

The Ilorins did their best to raise the siege by attacking the 
Ibadans in the rear, but the Ibadans rounded on them and inflicted 
on them a severe defeat. Their leader general Afunku fell in 
the conflict, about lOO Ilorins were made prisoners, and the rest 
escaped home, leaving Aaye to its fate. 

Such a turn of affairs was least expected at Aaye. The town 
was now closely invested, and when they were reduced to feeding 
on roots of trees, reptiles, and other loathsome objects they 
went about the streets bewailing their misfortunes and endeavour- 
ing to move the sympathy of their kinsmen of Otun, and sang 
" Olotun nje otito li o yio fi kini yi se ? " (O king of Otun, will 
you then make of this matter a stern reality ?) 

But there were some men in the town who were encouraging 
them to hold out a Httle longer, saying that great as their distress 
was in the town, greater still was it in the Ibadan camp where they 
were reduced to pounding hay for food ; and if their allies could 
not raise the siege, famine would do it for them. 


Thus encouraged, the men of Aaye held out heroically, they 
built forts upon the town walls from which sharp shooters harassed 
the Ibadans continually, and among those killed by that means 
was a notable chief Toki Onibudo^ the Seriki of Ibadan. But 
when they could hold out no longer, when men, women, and children 
were dying in the stieets from starvation, Fagbefiro the Alaye 
with his mother were resolved to risk going in person to the 
Ibadan camp to sue for peace. 

When they entered the camp and were being conducted to the 
Balogun's quarters, the Alaye was overcome with surprise on 
finding yam, corn, flour, and other articles of food exposed in the 
market for sale, " What do I see ? " exclaimed he " What about 
the famine we were told existed in the Ibadan camp so that men 
were reduced to feeding on pounded hay? " He there and then 
ordered some yam to be purchased for him, even before he got to 
the presence of the Balogun. 

The Balogun received the Alaye in a friendly manner, and terms 
of peace were agreed upon, the Alaye promising to serve the 
Ibadans. But he was told that as they could not return home to 
Ibadan empty-handed, he should give them a small force and a 
guide to Isan the next town of importance ; and in order to allay 
the Alaye's apprehensions the Balogun ordered a chief named 
Lajubu to return with the Alaye to the town to protect the same 
against the wild soldiery until the whole army had passed on to 
Iskn. But this seems to have been a ruse, for Lajubu and the 
Alaye had scarcely reached the gate of the town when the whole 
Ibadan army was on the move, Lajubu himself rushed forward not 
to protect the place, but to be amongst the first in plundering and 
slave-catching. Very few however were the captives taken, 
as famine had done its worst with them ; most of the survivors were 
weak and sickly, with oedematous hands and feet, and only about 
100 comparatively able-bodied were found amongst them, and even 
these nearly all soon perished from the indiscretion of their captors, 
who in hopes of restoring them speedily to sound health fed them 
immoderately after a long spell of starvation. 

The Ibadan army pushed on and took Oro, Yapa, Isi and Isan. 
At the last mentioned place all the war-chiefs remained, but the 
war-boys followed up the conquest as far as to Itagi, where they 
suffered a disaster and were checked. 

The people of Itagi left their town and hid themselves in the bush 
hard by. The Ibadan war-boys having rushed in, dispersed 

1 This chief was succeeded by his nephew, Ibikunle, who 
became a famous Balogun. 


all over the town, intent on plundering ; when the Itagi armed 
men came out and hunted them down everywhere butchering 
them to pieces. Chief Lajubu was amongst those caught in 
the market place and there he ended his career. 

This expedition opened the way for the Ibadan raids into 
the Ekiti country, which continued year by year until the whole 
of that province was brought under subjugation by them as will 
be seen hereafter, and they remained a subject people under the 
Ibadans until, united in one, they struck for freedom, which was 
won by the aid of the British government many years after. 

§ 2. The Egbas and Egbados 

About the same time as the events recorded in the previous 
section, the Egbas were waging war with some of the Egbado 
tribes. Ado was besieged, but held out for many years. All 
the Baloguns of Abeokuta were there present except their chief 
Sodeke ; but they spent their strength and skill to no purpose. 

It was just about this time (A.D. 1843) that the Missionaries 
of the C.M.S. arrived at Abeokuta for inspection with a view 
to carrying on mission work in this country. The pioneer was 
the Rev. Henry Townsend a European missionary, with Mr. 
Andrew Wilhelm Desalu his interpreter, both from Sierra Leone. 
They met Chief Sodeke the Balogun of Itoku and leader of the 
Egbas to Abeokuta who received them with a cordial welcome. 
Mr. Townsend left Abeokuta after a short stay with a promise 
to return soon for a permanent stay amongst them tor missionary 

Thus light began to dawn on the Yoruba country from the 
south, when there was nothing but darkness, idolatry, superstition, 
blood shedding and slave-hunting all over the rest of the country. 
There was an old tradition in the country of a prophecy that as 
ruin and desolation spread from the interior to the coast, so light 
and restoration will be from the coast interior-wards. This was 
a tradition of ages. Is not this event the beginning of its fulfil- 
ment ? Whilst the Egbas were encamped before Ado, the Daho- 
mians led out an expedition, and were on the march for Ilaro. 
It was privately reported to the Egbas that the Dahomians would 
suddenly fall on them and raise the siege. Hearing this the Egbas 
first sent out spies to ascertain their situation ; they thereupon 
surprised the Dahomians one morning as they spread themselves 
about their camp airing and drying their accoutrements that had 
got wet from a drenching rain after a storm that took place on the 
previous evening. In the confusion of the flight the Egbas captured 
the standard of the Dahomian army, which was an umbrella made 


of the skins of different kinds of animals, and burnt it. It was 
said that the King of Dahomey negotiated for it, and would have 
redeemed it at any price, but as it had been destroyed, it could 
not be restored ; and this was the cause of the mortal enmity 
and s>vorn hatred that has existed between successive Kings of 
Dahomey and the Egbas of Abeokuta unto this day. By the 
intervention of the Rev. Hy. Townsend, the siege of Ado was 
raised after a duration of 5 or 6 years, and the Egbas returned 

§ 3. Ibadan and Ijaye. The Batedo War, a.d. 1844 

Inflated with the success of his intrigues at home and his arms 
abroad, the Basorun of Ibadan was aspiring to the throne of 
Oyo ! That this was so was evident from his style and manner 
at this time, and the insinuations his drummer was permitted to 
make when greeting him : — 

" Iba, kuku joba, (Be the King at once, my lord, 

Mase bi Oba mo." Cease acting like a King). 

He, however, had his own misgivings ; he was the King's nephew 
but by the female line, and no such succession is possible in the 
Yoruba country. He would however make a venture trying might 
where he had no right, and in order to effect his purpose he was 
seeking occasion for a rupture with the AlAfin, and at the same 
time, by entreaty and bribery, endeavouring to secure the 
connivance if not the alliance of the Are of Ijaye, the only obstacle 
in his way. The latter refused to listen to him, and even remon- 
strated with him for his presumption and disloyalty to his lawful 
sovereign whose first minister he was. But as he would not 
be dissuaded from his projects, the Are finally sent word to say 
no one would venture to attack Oyo unless he the Are-ona-Kakanfo 
be first removed out of the way. 

The Are kept the King well informed of all that was passing 
between himself and the Basorun. His Majesty also was well 
aware of the Basorun's intentions and of his power, hence he dealt 
wisely and patiently with him, never evincing any hostile spirit 
towards him, nor taking any notice of his insults. Thrice did 
Oluyole the Basorun send word to the King to say he should now 
fulfil the promise he made before his coronation to lead the people 
back home and remove the seat of government back to the ancient 
capital. The King knowing his intentions, thus replied to the 
messengers on the tliird and last time : " Tell your master that 
if he is ready let him come on, I am ready. As the present 
Oyo is on the high way to the ancient capital, he should start 


first and meet me here." At the same time the AlAfin was 
fortifjang the town against a sudden attack, and employed a 
fetishman one Latubosun to bury charms at all the gates leading 
to the city as a preventive. As he was evincing much anxiety 
for the safetj' of the town both this fetishman and the Ondasa 
(the official fetishman) assured him that not a single shot would be 
fired against this place. 

Oluyole on the other hand lost no opportunity of seeking an 
occasion for a rupture between himself and the King. He sent 
a body of troops to intercept Abudu Alelo and Kosija the Ilari 
whom the King sent to Porto Novo for a supply of ammunition. 
Abudu's teeth were shattered by the fire of one of Oluygle's men, 
for this the King neither remonstrated with Oluyole nor demanded 
a redress knowing it to be a deliberate casus belli ; he treated the 
matter as an accident. 

With Kurumi the Are also Oluyole was provoking a rupture 
as he was the only obstacle in the way of his carrying out of his 
projects. He demanded that Kurumi as Kakanfo should acknow- 
ledge the seniority of himself as Basorun by coming in person to 
Ibadan to pay his respects to him, as he goes to Oyo to do homage. 
Kuriimi was too wide awake to venture his head into the lion's 
mouth, notwithstanding that Ogun-ko-roju his Balogun urged 
him to comply for the sake of peace. The Basorun constituted 
this refusal a casuf belli. 

A circumstance, however, occurred which accelerated the war. 
One Asu the Areagoro of Ladejo, an Ijaye chief, was expelled the 
town for treason, and he escaped to Fiditi, a town mid-way 
between Ijaye and Oyo; he rebuilt the ruins and had the town 
re-inhabited. The Kakanfo sent a company of 100 men to surprise 
and disperse this Httle band, but they found Asu and his men ready, 
and proving too strong for them, they were defeated and driven 
back. Fearing therefore the resentment of the Are, Asu sent to 
Ibadan for help. TheBasor un who had long been seeking an oppor- 
tunity for war against Ijaye hailed the present offer and sent out 
Balogun Oderinlo and Ibikunle the Seriki with instructions to 
confine their operations to kidnapping expeditions in Ijaye and 
Oyo farms, in order to harass them, and render farming both 
useless and unsafe so that famine might do half the work before a 
direct attack was made. 

This continued for many months and several skirmishes took 
place on the Aregbe hills in the Ijaye farms with varying results. 
At length the Ibadans suffered a great disaster at Odogido in 
the Ijaye farms which put an end to the Fiditi campaign. On 
that eventful day the Balogun arranged to lead an expedition 


to the Oyo farms and entrusted that to the Ijaye farms to the 
Seriki. At a place called Odogido the Ijayes lay in ambush 
and suddenly attacked the Seriki's army on all sides and routed it 
completely. About 140 masters of compounds " who went to 
war on horseback " were caught and slain exclusive of private 
soldiers. It was said that Ibikunle the Seriki himself only escaped 
by falling into some friendly hands and was quietly let off. The 
Ijayes pressed hard in pursuit until it was dark and the shadows 
of night saved the remnant ot the defeated. Hence this expedition 
was sometimes named " Oru gba mi 1^." (The night saved me.) 
One Lampejg was wounded in about 60 places all over his body,, 
and was left for dead, but at night he revived and found his way 

The expedition to the Oyo farms under the Balogun was also 
unsuccessful, though not disastrous ; not a single captive was 
brought back with him for they met nobody in the farms. 

The Are of Ijaye put to death all the captives that fell into his 
hands ; and made a platform on which he piled up the heads of 
the slain. For three months after this, the Ibadans remained 
inactive at Fiditi. 

Oluyole received the news with great indignation. He was 
resolved upon a siege of Ijaye ; and at once declared war and ordered 
his army at Fidih to meet him on the way thither ; they met him 
at Ojoho his first encampment about six miles from Ibadan. 

Thence they removed to Ika about midway between the two 
belligerent towns. From this place they began to clear the bush 
taking a north-easterly direction to the Ijaye farms which they 
reached on the 5th day and there encamped. Here the Ijayes 
met them and for two full years hard battles were fought with 
equal success on both sides ; but the war was very unpopular. 

Also an incident reported from home contributed largely to the 
failure of the expedition on the part of the Ibadans. The war- 
chiefs were told of the Basorun's boast when he heard of the 
disaster of Odogido that if there remained but himself alone and 
Oyainu (his favourite wife) he would take Ijaye. Oyainu herself, 
a lady of a masculine temperament and very popular was heard 
to swear by the Egugun gods (a thine; forbidden to women) that 
if the war was left to herself alone, she would take Ijaye. 

The war-chiefs were naturally hurt by this impHed slur cast 
upon them by the Basorun and his wife. This, added to the un- 
naturalness of the conflict, rendered them perfectly indifferent to 
the issue of the war, they followed their chief and his wife half- 
heartedly, rather as spectators to see how far they could do without 
them ; it was even asserted that some of the chiefs fired only 


blank ammunition. Whatever maybe the truth of these reports, 
it was qiiite certain that the war was unpopular, and that the 
Basgrun and his wife had to bear the brunt of the battle. 

The war at length became a general one. Both sides sought the 
alliance of the Egbas ; the Egba chiefs were divided, Sodek§ and 
Anoba declared for Ijaye, but Apati being Oluyole's friend and 
relative declared for Ibadan. Sodeke himself never went beyond 
Arakanga, 3 miles from home, but sent his eldest son forward 
to Ijaye. 

The alliance of Ogbomoso was also sought ; there was also a 
division here, the Bale declared for Ijaye but Ogurunbi a notable 
war-chief, for Ibadan. Oluygle further sought the alliance of the 
Emir of Ilorin and the aid of his powerful Balogun Ali. He also 
sent provisions for the Ilorin troops on account of the great 
scarcity of food then at Ilorin, and asked them to beseige Ogbomoso. 
He also sent a contingent force of infantry in aid of the Ilorins. 
The men of Ogbomoso defeated this army but could not pursue 
them far, for fear of the Ilorin horse. 

The Oke Ogun districts also were divided in their allegiance 
Iseyin declared for both Ijaye and Ibadan. [The fact is that that 
town was practically situated between two fires]. But He Bioku 
Berekodo, Igbo Ora and Pako were for Ibadan. 

In the Eastern districts Apomu, Ikire and Osogbo were vassals 
of Ibadan and had no choice, but Iwo and Ede revolted. The 
people of Ede were at first the allies of the Ibadans, and Folarin 
their prince was in the Ibadan camp from the beginning of the 
campaign, but when he received information that his people at 
home had revolted, he one day went over with all his men to Ijaye 
and was there received with open arms. The Are sent him home 
in peace under the escort of Chief Elepo late of Ibadan. 

Lodifi an Iwo chief also went over and was similarly sent home. 
But Kolokg and Adepo two Ibadan war-chiefs were stationed at 
Ejigbo to raid the Ede farms ; when therefore Prince Folarin and 
Chief Elepo arrived at Ede, they went against Ejigbo to drive away 
these raiders. Elepo, confident in the terror his very name 
inspired thought they would not dare await his approach, but alas, 
that time for Elepo was past and gone ; Prince Folarin fell in an 
engagement and Elepo was seriously wounded in the arms. He 
was thus invalided at Ede for about a whole year before he was 
sufficiently recovered to return to Ijaye. 

Thus the war between Ibadan and Ijaye involved nearly the 
whole country ; it lasted for two full years and during this period, 
the deadly conflict was chiefly between the Basorun and the Arg, 
for Odgrinlo the Balogun of Ibadan and Oguoroju the Balogun of 


liaye had free though private communication with each other, 
and so all the minor chiefs and privates on both sides met each his 
kinsman and exchanged greetings and presents with one another. 

The Alafin of Oyo held himself quite neutral and rendered 
no aid to either party and was thus able to come forward as 
an arbitrator between the contending parties. He sent the emblems 
of the god Sango with the high priest from Oyo to Ijaye, and thence 
to the Ibadan camp saying, " What the king on earth may not be 
able to effect, surely the King from the other world can do, and 
this unnatural conflict must now cease." 

Sango's intervention was respected by both parties now tired 
of the war, and peace was immediately concluded. The Ibadans 
in the camp flocked to Ijaye and vice versa, ^dich. one to see his 
friends and relatives and to offer congratulations. 

It was during this war that locusts were first seen in the Yoruba 
country. They swarmed through the land and devoured every 
blade of green grass, but there was no famine in consequence for 
providentially it occurred just before cereals were planted, and 
they did not pass over the same region again ; but there was 
agricultural depression in some parts of the country for the locusts 
did not altogether disappear from the land for about two years. 

§ 4. Abeokut aand Abaka. The AbAka War, a.d. 1846 

About a year after their return from the Ado war, and after 
the death of Sodeke the Egbas found a pretext for waging war 
against Abak^ a suburban village. It was at first considered 
an easy task, but the Abaka men defended theii town so vigorously 
that they compelled the Egbas to beat a hasty retreat. The war 
was, however, renewed and the small town closely invested for 
fully four months and was reduced by famine. The distinguished 
Egba war-chiefs then were ; Apati the Generalissimo, Anoba, 
Olufakun, Somoye, Ogunbgna of Ikija and others. On their 
return from this expedition about 150 captives were allotted 
to Anoba alone. 

The Egbas being now fully settled in their new home, Abeokuta, 
deemed it necessary to organize themselves for complete civil 
duties and have a king over them ; and Okukenu one of their 
war-chiefs who bore the Oyo title of Sagbua (one of the junior 
Esos of Oyo) was unanimously elected the first king of Abeokuta. 

§ 5, The Ile Bioku Expedition and End of Chief Elepo 

At the same time the Abaka war was going on, Kuriimi the 
Are of liaye sent an expedition against Ile Bioku one of the Oke 
Ogun towns to punish them for having sided with the Ibadans 

302 The history of the yorubas 

during the late Batedo war. This expedition was entrusted 
to Chief Elepo late of Ibadan. This chief was for carrying the 
place by a coup de main, but the men of Bioku having heard before- 
hand of the impending danger were on the alert, and were fully 
prepared to offer a determined resistance. Elepo arranged for a 
night attack and headed his men for the assault. The men of 
Bioku fought desperately, but so vigorous was the assault that they 
were compelled to retreat into the town and some captives were 
made among them. 

But Elepo the leader of the expedition had been wounded with 
a poisoned arrow at the first onslaught, and as he stepped aside 
as was his wont, for his troops to rush forward, he expired soon after 
unknown to them. 

But the men of Bioku rallied and repulsed the attack, and when 
at this moment Elepo was expected to re-appear on the scene to 
support his men he was not to be found. The repulsed assembled 
at the foot of the hill on which He Bioku was built waiting for 
their leader ; his drum was kept up beating and calling him if per- 
chance he had missed his way, but alas he had fallen and they 
knew it not. 

The Bioku men had not the courage to descend from their 
heights and attack them, nor could the Ijaye in vadeis venture on 
another assault without their leader. Thus both parties retired. 

At dawn, the men of Bioku in removing their slain observed 
the corpse of Chief Elepo, and they called to the Ijaye men from 
their heights : "Examine among j'ourselves and see who is 
missing ; here is the corpse of a fallen soldier with striped trousers." 
Then the Ijaye men knew that they had lost their leader. Thus 
the expedition against He Bioku failed. 

The Late Chief Elepo. — Chief Elepo was a native of Iwdgbk 
and was acknowledged to be one of the greatest generals Ibadan 
ever produced. In no other man was power ever seen so combined 
with hamiUty, loyalty, and devotion as was characteristic of 
Elepo. He was remarkable for simplicity of manners, and could 
not be distinguished among his common soldiers by dress or any 
futile accessories. At home or in the field he mingled freely with 
them all and carried a gun on his shoulders hke one of them. He 
was almost always victorious. Unhke the other generals of the 
day, he used to march at the head of his troops leading them to the 
fight, and when on the scene ot action he stepped aside with his 
attendants, for his men to rush forward, and if they were 
repulsed he would at once re-appear on the scene and repel the 

The following anecdote told of him will serve to illustrate how 


much was the dread which his very name inspired in people's 

It was once rumoured at Iwo that Elepo was coming against 
them at the head of his army. There was a great consternation 
in the town and a Babalawo (Ifa priest) in consulting his god as 
to his safety and that of his family was so distracted with fear 
that he transposed the words of divination, substituting the name 
of Elepo for that of the god, and vice versa ; said he, " Elepo nkan 
kan, Orunmila li o gbe ogun de oke odo yi. Ngo ti se ku ti omo ti 
omg," i.e. O Elepo the ineffable, heie is Orunmila (the god Ifa) 
with his army at the banks of the river. ^ By what means shall I 
perish children and all ! Upon his son calhng his attention to 
the mistake saying " Father, you are saying it wrong, it is just the 
other way," he turned round and dealt him a blow on the head 
saying, "Bi mo ti nfe e ki fito da iya re nu u" (i.e. that is how I used 
to be engaged to it, before ever I divined with your mother), 
intending to say that was how he used to divine with it before he 
was ever engaged to the lad's mother. Such was the dread 
Elepo's name inspired. 

He was generally loved and respected by his colleagues, but 
his oldest friend and chief to whom he was devoted proved false 
to him and contrived to bring about his ruin. Such is man ! 

When the corpse was recognised by the Bioku people his head 
was taken off and sent to the Basorun of Ibadan. What grim 
pleasure or delight that great intriguer took in it, tradition did 
not say, but such was the end of that great man. 

§ 6. Sagaun and Igbo-Ora 
The fires of theBatedo war were still smouldering in the embers. 
The Basorun of Ibadan at the zenith of his glory, but unable to 
attain the height of his ambition became very oppressive at home. 
No one escaped the virulence of his tongue ; he had no regard for 
any, least of all for the Balogun who was the next man to him in 
the town. A general insurrection was therefore raised against 
him which involved nearly the whole town. The Balogun and 
Otun connived at it, but professed neutrality ; the Seriki and the 
Asipa alone were for restoring order in the town, and through their 
intervention, by remonstrating with the two senior chiefs, and 
addressing a strong appeal to the Basorun to check the excesses 
of his men, the insurrection was quelled. The Ibadans however 
soon found a vent for their overflowing energies by events trans- 
piring elsewhere, as an outcome of the late Batedo war. 

^ The River Obk near Iwo. 


We have seen above how parties were divided in their allegiance 
in the Oke Ogim districts during the late Batedo war, how Sagaun 
declared for Ijaye, andBerekodo, Igbo Ora, and Pako for Ibadan. 
Agidi the chief of Sagaun found a pretext for declaring war against 
Igbo- Ora, and besieged it, but finding the place too strong for 
him, he appHed to Ijaye for help, and the Are sent out theBalogun 
to his aid. The Igbo Ora people on the other hand sent to Ibadan 
for help as their misfortunes were occasioned by their loyalty 
to Ibadan, The Basorun at first sent to their aid a war-chief 
named Akawo but Akawo soon sent home for a larger force ; 
then Ibikunle the Seriki, Opeagbe the Osi and others were sent as 
re-inforcement. The principal war-chiefs remained at Berekodo, 
but they sent all the Badas to Igbo-Ora. But the Ijaye army was 
still too strong for them and when they could hold out no longer 
they retreated with the whole of the Igbo-Ora people to Pako. 
The Balogun of Ijaye besieged them here also and would have 
crushed them had not timely aid come from Ibadan. The 
Basorun hearing of the straits in which his men were, ordered the 
Balogun to the rescue. But Oderinlo the Balogun of Ibadan and 
Lasilo theBalogun of Ijaye were sworn friends, and rather than 
prove false to him, Oderinlo from his first rendezvous at Odo 
Ona sent to tell his friend that he was coming with an overwhelming 
force which the I j ayes could not possibly withstand, and there- 
fore he would advise him to retire from Sagaun as soon as 
possible; nothing could be gained by the enormous loss of lives that 
must ensue, and the pangs of broken friendship ; and Sagaun 
must fall. Lasilo and his men accordingly letired from Sagaun, and 
on that very day the Ibadan hosts entered and Sagaun was taken. 

Chief Agidi who originated the war fell from the heights of Oke 
Tapa and was killed. Within 13 days of their departure the 
Balogun of Ibadan with his armj' returned home but met the 
Basorun seriously ill. During their absence in the field the Basorun 
called at the houses of all the principal chiefs and respectable 
citizens to ask after the welfare of their households ; he was 
everywhere received with marks of honour. In one of these rounds 
he unfortunately met with an accident, by being thrown off his 
horse and he sustained an internal injury from which he was laid 
up and was unable to see or welcome home his army. Five days 
after their arrival, he breathed his last. 

What the populace could not do during his lifetime they were 
determined to do now, viz., to pull down and plunder his house on 
account of the enormities perpetrated by him. But the Balogun 
prevented this, he posted the Agbakin with his men at the entrance 
of the palace to prevent any outrage or disorder. 


Thus passed away one of the most distinguished figures in the 
Yoruba countr5\ 

The Late Oluyole Basorun of Ibadan. — Oluygle was the son 
of OlokQoye, grandson of Basorun Yamba, and Agbgnrin the 
daughter of King Abiodun the Alafin of Oyo. He was born 
during the period of the Fulani ascendancy and the ravages of 
the Jamas, and hence his parents were reduced to absolute poverty. 
As a lad, he was apprenticed to a metallurgist for whom he carried 
charcoal. It was during this period that he obtained the friendship 
of Oyainu (his favourite wife) whom he afterwards married ; but 
his first wife was Latofide. When he first asked for her hand she 
refused him on account of the idle life he was then leading as a 
dancer ; but his friends Lanose and others begged her to accept 
him, pledging their honour to see her taken care of and properly 

When Oluyole rose to power and eminence he took revenge 
on her for this circumstance which he never forgot. 

Oyainu had no children but Latofide was the mother of his 
first born Akiola whom he loved very much ; so much so that when 
the lad was seriously ill, at the advice of an Ifa priest he offered 
a slave in sacrifice as a ransom for the life of his son. Akiola however 

Oluyole joined at Ipara the band of marauders which subse- 
quently settled at Ibadan. Fortune favoured him there and he rose 
to a position of some distinction in the army, first as an Areagoro, 
then the Osi of Ibadan, and lastly he became the Basorun of the 

He was the friend of Ologun I'Eko and of Kosoko of Lagos 
whose ally he was during the Ota war : he survived all his colleagues 
and after the Eleduwe war obtained the title of Basorun from the 
AlAfin Atiba. 

As a ruler he was arbitrary and oppressive and that was the 
cause of several civil wars at Ibadan. As a commander he was 
almost always successful although he had many narrow escapes. 

As an excuse for him, his was an age of anarchy and lawlessness, 
and a ruler who showed himself weak would soon be compelled to 
give place to another. He could endure no rival and was exceed- 
ingly ambitious, hence the two inexcusable flaws in his life history, 
the perfidy to his faithful friend Elepo, and the disloyalty to the 
AlAfin his uncle and sovereign. 

He cannot be properly spoken of as a bloodthirsty tyrant 
because although sometimes inexorable, yet he was frequently 
merciful and forbearing. We may note for instance his treatment 
of those caught in the insurrection against him. In this respect 


he contrasted most favourably with his contemporary Kurumi 
of Ijaye. 

Ogunmgla who subsequently rose to distinction was but a 
private during his early administration: he had only a single 
drummer as his attendant whom he used to mount on a tree in 
front of his house and himself sitting on an empty keg of powder 
challenging the Basgrun to a civil war ! His drummer used to 
beat : — 

" Ogunmola, ija 'gboro ni yio pa a dan, dan, dan ! 
O nyi agba gbiri, gbiri, gbiri ! 
O mu agbori Igwg, o nwo ona Orun yan, yan, yan ! " 
(Ogunmola, of a civil fight he shall die for sure, sure, sure ! 
He keeps kegs of powder a rolling, rolling, rolling ! 
With a jack knife in hand he is looking heavenwards steadily, 
steadily, steadily !) 

His Highness, amused at this imp, used to send him some presents, 
sa5ang " He is hungry hence he is challenging me to a fight." 

His contemporary of Ijaye would have made short work of 
him for this. 

Oluygle was fond of husbandry ; he had extensive plantations 
of okra, beans, vegetables, corn and yams, a separate farm for 
each, and whenever he had to take any to the market, no farmer 
was allowed to sell that particular article that day as he had sufii- 
cient to supply all the traders in the town, and could undersell 
any farmer. He made an experiment in yam planting so that a 
single root should be large enough for a load. The soil was first 
prepared, and a hole dug about 3 or 4ft. deep, and as many in 
diameter ; this was filled with weeds and pieces of banana stalks, 
earth was raised upon it, and the yam planted therein ; as the 
underlying rubbish decayed room was made for the yam to extend 
in all directions until the hole was filled and the size of the yam 
large enough for a load. 

The Basorun owned nearly all the kola trees in the town as 
well as the kola groves, and often offered human sacrifices in 
them in order to make the trees fruitful One of his wives, the 
mother of his son Owolabi, was for a trifling offence punished by 
being sacrificed in one of these groves. 

Silk velvet was then very rare and of a high value ; he allowed 
no one but himself alone to use a velvet robe ; the chiefs might use 
velvet caps only, but this no common man dared to do. The argu- 
ment for this was that when poor people begin to aspire to what 
they could not easily obtain, they neglect the more necessary 
things of every day life and thereby impoverish those dependent 


upon them. Moreover, it fosters the spirit of ambition and 
covetousness which may lead to robbery and other evils. It is 
better, therefore not to encourage such, and thus they were for- 
bidden altogether. 

Oluyole kept a large harem, for when he had become great his 
wives used to seize any good-looking maiden found in the street 
or market place, and bring her to him to become his wife. Hundreds 
of these he did not even know by sight, his palace being an enormous 
compound. On his death, the relatives and betrothed husbands 
of these maidens boldly entered his palace and took them away. 

He had many children, the most distinguished among them were : 
Owolabi who perished in the Ara expedition (to be noticed hereafter) , 
after him Alade who became the head of the house, but he also 
died not long after, and Aborisade the next eldest who stood for 
many years the head of the house. 

The central market at Ibadan known as " Oja Iba " was so 
named after him when he became Ibasorun ; fo merly it was 
Oja Labosinde after theBaba Isale of the early settlers. 

By the death of the Basorun the government of the town 
devolved upon Oderinlg theBalogun, but as some of the important 
chiefs were then absent from home, he was not disposed to assume 
a higher title till their return, and a general re-arrangement of 
titles take place. But he survived his chief only a year, and Laju- 
mgke the Otun and next in rank to him having died, the headship 
devolved upon Opeagbe the Osi, but he survived them only 11 
months, and after his death, by a unanimous vote Olugbode an 
Owu man was elected Bale, but he was not properly installed 
into office until the war-chiefs returned from an expedition now 
to be noticed. 

Chapter XVII 




§ I. The Opin War 

After the crushing defeat of the Ilorins at Osogbo and the Ibadan 
ascendancy, the Ilorins ventured no more into the Oyo provinces, 
except for the Httle help they endeavoured to give to the Ibadans 
during the Batedo war, by attempting to besiege Ogbomoso, 
which ended disastrously for them. They appeared now to have 
recovered somewhat from their military depression, at least 
sufficiently to essay an aggressive warfare into the Efon districts. 
A man called Esu, a native of lye, a town between Ilemoso 
and Eluku who had been a slave at Ilorin was redeemed by one 
Lai eye for 12 heads of cowries ; the latter also redeemed one Oni for 
25 heads of cowries, and gave her to him to wife. Esu, however, 
turned out to be a ne'er do weel of a roving disposition, unfit for 
any trade. He left Ilorin and settled first at Egbe then at Itagi 
and finally at Isan, leading a predatory life in those regions, kid- 
napping peaceful traders, sparing none, and was particularly 
hard on the Ilorin traders. In that way he became a person of 
some importance in those parts ; hence the Ilorins were now 
resolved upon capturing him alive. 

Finding himself obnoxious to the Ilorins he hastily declared 
his allegiance to the Ibadans their great antagonist. Through 
the assistance of Oluokun a distinguished Ibadan gentleman 
residing at Ila, he received an introduction to the Basorun 
of Ibadan (then living) who received him cordially, and in dis- 
missing him, gave him a war standard and commended him to 
the care of Yemaja his tutelary deity, Oluyole being a very 
religious man in his own way. In his incursions Esu never forgot 
his patron, for during the Basorun's Ufetime, he continually sent 
him slaves and booty taken in his raids. After the death of 
Oluyole the Ilorins were resolved to besiege Esu at Opin where 
he then was. 

Ali the braveBaloganof Ilorin was entrusted with this expedition. 
He sought the alUance of the Ibadan chiefs, as the relation between 
Esu and Ibadan was only a personal one with the late Baoruns; 
and besides, the Ibadans were somewhat under an obligation to 



Ilgrin for assisting them in the futile siege of Ogbomgso during 
the late Batedo war, but as a matter of fact in order to forestall 
his opponent. Although any pretext however small was quite 
sufficient as an excuse for the Ibadans to mobilize, yet in this 
case only a junior war-chief named Kgloko with a small force 
was sent to represent the Ibadans, 

For three years Opin held out heroically and had nearly baffled 
the prowess of AH when a sudden accident occurred which extin- 
guished their hopes. Aganga Adoja a noble citizen was the hero 
of the town ; one night Aganga was inspecting his magazine 
with a naked lamp in hand, when suddenly a terrific explosion was 
heard and the hopes of Opin with her heroic defender perished 
together in a moment. 

Esu escaped to Isan, thence to Oye, and then to Ikole. These 
places were taken one after another as Esu was being pursued 
to be taken alive. He escaped finally to Omu Ijela, a place 
fortified by nature against primitive weapons of warfare. Situated 
on a high hill, and surrounded for a mile on all sides by a thorny 
hedge and thickets, it was impenetrable to the Ilorin horse. Ali 
died soon after Opin was taken and his body was conveyed to 
Ilorin for interment. The command of the army now devolved 
on Hinna-konu the Fulani Balogun, assisted by Alanamu the 
Yoruba Balogun of Ilorin. 

After the capture of the above named towns the camp was 
broken up, and the Ilgrin army as well as the Ibadan contingent 
returned to their respective homes. Kglgkg of Ibadan, however, 
did not reach home, but fell sick by the way and died at Osogbo. 

§ 2. Subjugation of the Ijesas 

After th-e return home of the war-chiefs from the Opin expedition 
and all were now present at home. Chief Olugbode was regularly 
and formally installed into office as the Bale of Ibadan. It was 
now his turn to confer the principal titles on the war-chiefs. The 
important titles of Balogun, Otun, Osi, i.e., the commander-in- 
chief, commander of the right and of the left, were vacant. As 
titles were sometimes given not to the most worthy but to the 
highest bidder, Ibikunle the Seriki was advised to bid for the 
title of Balogun ; but he refused to do so with words which have 
become memorable, showing the character and qualit}' of the man 
" A ki ifi owo du oye alagbara," i.e. the title of the valiant should 
never be contested with mone}'. As the most worthy of his 
compeers, the title of Balogun was conferred upon him without 
a dissentient voice. The other titles followed in due course. 

The Ibadan army as now constituted being the instrument of 



raising the reputation of that military state to its highest pitch 
of fame, which was maintained for many years afterwards and 
has never been surpassed, the names of the principal leaders and 
their offices may here be given : — 

Bale — Olugbode 











Otun Bale 

Ajayi Jegede 









Osi Bale 
Ajiya Bale 
Areagoro Balogun 


Of these the first three and last two were exceptionally brave men. 
There was at this time in the Yoruba country a great increase 
in the population, a marvellous agricultural prosperity, and an 
abundant energy not always directed to useful purposes. 

It was always the custom after conferring of titles especially 
that of Balogun to seize the first opportunity that offered to prove 
one's fitness for the title ; an opportunity was soon afforded for 
the purpose. 

The Ijebu ERg War 

The Ijgsas of Ilase and Ibokun reinforced from Ilesa were 
at this time making incursions into the Osogbo farms. Osogbo 
being under the protection of Ibadan, the Bale of Ibadan therefore 
sent out his Balogun on his first expedition to punish Ilase for the 

On reaching Osogbo, the Ibadan army marched direct to the 
Ilas§ farms, clearing the bush, making wide paths and encamped 
by the Yawo stream. 

But the expedition nearly collapsed before ever they came in 
sight of the enemy. A quarrel broke out between Orowilsi the 
Ekgrin and two of the Bale's war-chiefs Ojo Orona and Okunlk, 
which nearly involved the whole camp. There appeared to be an 
old grudge between them and they clashed with each other when 
choosing sites for their tents. The Bale's principal war-chiefs 
the Otun and the Osi took no part in the fight but their men did. 
Neither the Balogun nor Ogunmola the Otun could interfere with- 
out appearing to take sides and then the strife would be general. 

Ogunmola who was distinguished for his tact and diplomacy 
therefore sent to the Balogun that he should give orders for battle as 
if the Ij§sas were coming upon them. This was done. They marched 
out in order of battle, crossed the Yawo stream and opened fire 


upon an imaginary foe. They then sent a company of men to the 
camp to raise an alarm " The Ijesas in sight." When therefore 
those rival chiefs heard the sound of musketry they left off fighting 
among themselves. The matter was amicably adjusted on the 
next day. 

The Bale at home was informed of everything that transpired 
by a special messenger Oni by name (afterwards Josiah Oni) 
and he sent to pacify both parties. 

For a whole year Ilase withstood the attacks of the Ibadans. 
In order to raise the siege, the Ijesas of Ibokun attacked the Ibadan 
camp from the rear, but the Balogun had provided against this 
contingency. Ali the powerful Balogun of Iwo was always left 
in the camp with a reserve force whenever they were engaged 
in battle. The Ibokuns were routed, driven back, and pursued 
right home, and the town was taken. The Ibadans were now able 
to concentrate all their forces on Ilase. When Ilase could no 
longer hold out, their Ilesa auxiliaries withdrew and the town was 
taken. The Ibadans now left the camp at Yawo and pitched in a 
plain having the ruins of Ilase and Ibokun on one side, and on the 
other Esa Egure and Esa Olusopo. Olusopg and Mesin Oloja 
Oke surrendered through Oluokun of Ibadan, a resident in those 
parts, and peace was concluded with them. From thence they 
removed to Ijebu Ere. 

A large number of the people of Ilase escaped to Ijebu Ere. 
This was a large town, and a large force from Ilesa the capital was 
sent to defend it. The Ibadan army was met at a considerable 
distance from the town. • Three severe engagements took place ; at 
the third the Ijesas were defeated and 160 of them made prisoners. 

Ijebu Ere was now closely besieged. Being a large town, the 
Balogun divided the Ibadan army into three parts ; he 
encamped at Iwaye, and placed the Otun at the Erinmo road and 
the Seriki with all the Badas at the Efon Aye road. He intention- 
ally left the Ilesa road free as if to suggest a way of escape for them. 

The Ijesas made a desperate effort to carry the Iwaye camp, but 
found the Balogun too strong for them. Next they concentrated 
their attack on the camp at the Erinmo road ; thrice they attempted 
to carry it by assault, bat they were repulsed. The Balogun 
thereupon left a few of his war-chiefs in the Iwaye road, took the 
Seriki's place in the Efon Aye road, and sent him to reinforce the 
Otun where the fight was now strongest. 

The Ibadans were then in the habit of using coloured or 
variegated umbrellas in the field as banner j, and the Ijesa war-chiefs 
having then no umbrellas raised their broad sun hats upon a pole 
covering them with a red cloth, to serve the double purpose. 


Opejin the chief of Ibokun, was one of the bravest defenders of 
this place. 

Finding that the defenders continued stubborn, the Ibadans 
began to kidnap on the only route left them, viz. the road to Ilesa. 
The Ijesas fearing that this also would be lost to them quietly 
deserted Ijebu Er^ and escaped with the people of the town. 

After they had clean gone the information was conveyed to 
the besiegers by a man left in shackles ; not a soul was found in 
the town when they entered. The principal chiefs remained there, 
but the juniors went in pursuit : they found many of the smaller 
towns had likewise been deserted. 

At Erinmo a feeble resistance was made. About 200 men 
kept up fire from the forts ; this continued for some time, but they 
escaped, leaving two cripples who were good marksmen to keep 
up the show. When the town was attacked on all sides and the 
walls scaled then the Ibadans found to their amazement that the 
town had been wholly deserted, and that the fire was kept up by 
only two cripples. They were brutally dragged down from the 
fort and slain ; the gates were then thrown open for their comrades 
to rush in. The Ibadans continued their pursuit to Omo Erin 
where they found a few aged men and women, the able-bodied 
having fled away ; next to Erinta-dogun where a feeble resistance 
was made until night-fall when the men had an opportunit}' of 
making good their escape. Leaving Erinta-dogun they came to 
a place where three roads met, one leading to Ipindun, another to 
Akata, and the third to Ikeji. Those who took the way to Akata 
met all the women and children of the several towns and villages 
that were deserted, and they were all taken captives. But the 
section that took the way to Ikeji (which was four days distant 
from their base at Ijebu Ere) met with a disaster by an ambuscade 
and were nearly annihilated but for the timely aid of Ali of Iwo and 
Jefiriyin of Ibadan. This disaster was subsequently avenged 
by the Otun whom the Balogun sent to their assistance when the 
news reached him at the Ijebu Ere headquarters. 

This expedition was termed Ijebu Ere because of the amount 
of mud and slush along the way from Ijebu to Ikeji the terminus 
of the present expedition. 

The Ijesas of Ilesa the capital here surrendered to the Ibadans 
bringing them presents of cowries, beads, etc., and also hostages. 
The people of Og6tun put up a white flag at the approach of th 
pursuers and surrendered to Osundina the Osi. Igbara did the same 
and surrendered to Ajayi Jegede the Seriki. Some of the minor 
chiefs who were not satisfied with what they got asked leave to 
make incursions in other directions; they were allowed to do so. 


Some met with good fortune, others with privations and terrible 
disasters from ambuscades. The wreck of this subsidiary expedi- 
tion reached the camp at Ijebu Ere. Nine days after this the 
standard of the Ibadan army wended its way homeward. 

Before starting on this expedition the Ibadans sent presents to 
the Ilorins, requesting their co-operation. The Ilorin army marched 
out, but on reaching Otun it was reported to them that their old 
enemy Esu was encamped on a rock about a mile from Otun. 
Knowing that he was sure to be attacked there, the principal 
war-chiefs of Otun, against the protest of the Ow6rc their prince, 
admitted Esu into the town, and the Ilorins instead of joining 
their allies thereupon encamped against Otun. But Otun is a 
tributary town of Ibadan, the Balogun and Otun of Ibadan there- 
fore sent to remonstrate with the Ilorins for fighting with their 
friends when they were asked against their enemies. The reply 
was, " Not Otun but Esu ; we find our old enemy here, and we 
must not pass him by." The Ilorins, however could not take Otun 
till the Ijebu Ere campaign was over. Ajayi Jegede the Seriki, 
therefore asked permission to go to the help of his friend Esu 
at Otun, and Lisibade the over-lord of Otun did the same. Not 
only was permission granted, bat the Balogun, Otun, and each of 
the principal war-chiefs also sent a small detachment with hira, 
about 3,000 strong to re-inforce the town. The rest of the Ibadan 
army now returned home. Thus the whole of the Ijesas were 
subdued by the Ibadans. 

§ 3. The First Dahomian Invasion of Abeokuta, a.d. 1851 

The first Dahomian invasion of Abeokuta took place on Monday 
the 3rd of March, 1851, during the absence of the Ibadans at the 
Ijebu Ere expedition. We have seen above Chap. XVI, § 2 what 
was the cause of their sworn hostility to Abeokuta. 

Commander Forbes a British naval officer, and Mr. Beecroft, 
Her Britannic Majesty's consul for the Bights of Benin and Biafra 
were at Abomey (the capital of Dahomey) when preparations were 
being made for the invasion of Abeokuta, and they communicated 
a full account of the same to the English Missionaries there with 
a view to forewarning the Egba chiefs, while they themselves 
were exerting their good offices in dissuading the Dahomians from 
these periodic raids on their neighbours. 

It was alleged by an eye-witness that as the troops were assembled 
in the market square, the leaders pledged themselves to their 
sovereign not to shrink before the foe, and exhibited what prowess 
they would display in the coming struggle. The leader of the 
Amazons demanded for her regiment the honour of leading the 


attack upon the ground that on previous expeditions they (the 
Amazons) had always carried the positions when the male regi- 
ments failed to do so. The arrangement was accordingly agreed 

But the Egba chiefs were rather indifferent to the representations 
of the missionaries urging them to a vigorous preparation, except 
Sagbua the Alake and Ogunbona the Balogun of Ikija, who 
repaired the walls of the town in the direction of the main gate to 
Aro : the rest were left in a dilapidated condition. 

When the Dahomians reached Isaga, a small town about 17 
miles from Abeokuta, the people tendered their submission to 
them and whilst concluding terms of amity and friendship with 
them, they despatched private messengers to Abeokuta to apprise 
the chiefs of the situation. It was now too late for the Egbas 
to begin to repair their walls. The whole town was seized with 
panic and consternation, some fleeing to Osiele, some to Atadi, 
others going where they knew not. The women everywhere 
raised the cry of alarm " Elel6 m'el6 " (every man to his matchet), 
and hurried the men to the walls to watch the approach of the 
enemy. Fortunately for Abeokuta the Isaga people had induced 
the Dahomians to alter their plan of attack from a night to a noon 
day assault, and from the north west where the walls were in a 
dilapidated condition to the western gate where repairs had 
recently been executed ; and to this circumstance alone Abeokuta 
owed her safety ; had they followed their original plan, nothing 
could have saved the town. Even as it was many eye-witnesses 
do aver that what contributed most to their safety was confidence 
in the presence of the missionaries in the town. " The God of the 
white man " said they "is on our side." From this they derived 
moral com age. 

On that memorable Monday the Dahomians were descried 
advancing towards the Ar6 gate. Some of the Egba chiefs went out 
to arrest their progress, but they could not withstand the force of 
those brave warriors. They were said to be advancing in the order 
of battle, marching steadily and solidly onward, ignoring the fire 
of the Egbas and paying no attention to those among themselves 
who fell, but kept marching stolidly onward. They never fired, but 
at the word of command, and when they did, their volleys were 
demoralizing. By this we can see that the Dahomian soldiers 
were discipUned troops such as the Egbas had never faced before. 
Those who went to arrest their progress fled precipitately and 
would not even stay to man the walls ; some of them never halted 
till they reached the Abetu stream within the town. The general 
idea that the Dahomians cared more for skulls than for captives 


and that the drinking cup each soldier carried in his knap-sack 
was a human skull added greatly to the dread entertained of them. 
But Ogunbona the Balogun of Ikija, and Sokenu the Seriki of 
Ab§okuta displayed undaunted courage and bravery, opposing, 
the enemy with all their might. 

The courage and noble deeds of the Egba women on this occasion 
were beyond all praise, and demand our special notice. But for 
them some of the men who were cowardly would have fled before 
the enemy. In the thick of the tight, with bullets flying right and 
left the Egba women could be seen in the ranks of the fighting 
men with water, mashed eko (a cooling drink), refreshments and 
encouragements, so that they need not fall to the rear for any- 
thing but continue the fight. Some of the missionaries were 
also there encouraging them by their presence, and doing what 
they could for the wounded. 

Notwithstanding all this the trench around the town wall being 
full of dead bodies, the Dahomians were actually scaling the 
walls. Some of them with one hand cut off would hold on with the 
other or with the stump with grim determination in their faces; 
they kept pressing on, and a few did actually get into the town. 

Up to this time the Egbas did not know that they were fighting 
with women. Following the barbarous custom of the age, it was 
customary to send as a trophy to the chief ruler of the town, the 
head and the private parts of the first enemy caught in warfare ; 
when those who actually entered the town were caught and slain, 
and the trophy was to be sent, then the Egbas knew that these 
terrible fighters were the Amazons ! 

Immediately the news spread among all ranks that they have 
been fighting with women, and lor very shame all the Egba 
men were exasperated beyond measure and rushed upon them with 
one accord and compelled them to retreat. The Dahomians left 
thousands dead behind the walls of Abeokata. 

The Egbas thought they only retreated to prepare for a more 
vigorous attack the next day, and they also went to prepare for a 
more determined resistance; but the Dahomians were already on 
their homeward march, they were not accustomed to lay siege 
or repeat an assault ; if an assault failed they retreated altogether 
to renew it at another time. They were determined to punish 
the Isaga people for their treacherous conduct towards them. 
The Egbas, finding that the attack was not renewed the next day, 
followed in pursuit and met them at Isaga, the chiefs of which were 
just then apologizing and defending their conduct. The battle 
fought here was said to have been more fierce than that before 
the walls of Abgokuta. The Egbas contemned the idea of being 


attacked by women hence the furious onslaught they made at 

The Dahomians left more dead behind them than the captives 
they succeeded in taking away, including the skulls of the unfor- 
tunate victims caught in the farms. 

Soon after the invasion, on the i6th of May, 1851, the Rev. D. 
Hinderer, a German missionary of the C.M.S., who was then 
labouring at Abeokuta and witnessed the attack, obtained per- 
mission from Sokenu and the other chiefs to carry the gospel to 
Ibadan. At this period, none of the surrounding tribes was at 
peace with Ibadan. The Ijebus especially were kidnapping on the 
roads, and one had to reach the town by a circuitous route of four 
instead of two days from Abeokuta. Caravans to Ijaye and Ibadan 
were under escorts up to a certain point, and the Rev, D. Hinderer 
was obliged to risk the rest of the journey by himself when the 
escorts could proceed no further for fear of Ijebu kidnappers. 

The Rev. D. Hinderer was received kindly by the Balgandthe 
other leading chiefs of Ibadan. When he told them the object 
of his visit, the five leading chiefs, viz., the Bale, Balogun, Otun, 
Osi, and an elderly chief Lanoso by name, in whose house lie was 
lodged, held consultation whether they should receive the white 
man and the message he brought or not. Osundina the Osi a 
staunch Moslem raised great objections, evidently on religious 
grounds ; he stoutly opposed his stay amongst them. Said he 
" Awgn obaiye je ni iwonyi." (These are the world spoilers), 
" There is no country they enter but misfortune will follow for 
that place." Ogunmola the Otun said: "But white men are at 
Lagos, Badagry, and Abeokuta ; why should we refuse him ? We 
are not the first nor shall we be the last to receive them, and what- 
ever be the consequence to others let the same be to us also." 
Ibikunle the Balogun suggested that the national god Ifa should 
be consulted, and if Ifa prognosticated evil let the white man 
be ordered out of the town at once ; but if favourable, let 
him be received. These five chiefs accordingly repaired to the 
Ogboni house at the Ibasorun market and consulted the brazen 
Ifa which is the national god. The omen was favourable and Mr. 
Hinderer was accorded a cordial welcome and well entertained. 
A place of residence was assigned to him, the house of the late 
Chief Ogidi, and he was placed under the special care of chief 
Abayomi the Ajiya Bale the head chief of that part of the town 
through whom he could always approach the chiefs in council ; 
and he in turn entrusted him to Olumiloj^o his Balogun whose house 
was not far from the mission premises. 

Mr. Hinderer remained five months at Ibadan on this his first 


visit, preaching and teaching and making general observation 
on the place as a field of missionary enterprise. He then returned 
to England to recruit his health and to prepare for a permanent 
stay there. 

§ 4. The Ara War and Relief of Otun 

Ara is a town of considerable importance in the Ekiti country. 
This expedition was named after it, although Ara was not the 
primary objective when the Ibadan standard left home, but it 
was the last important place taken before the Ibadans returned 

We have seen above that the Ibadans invited the Ilorins to the 
Ijebu Ere expedition and that the Ilorins instead of joining them 
as allies encamped against Otun a tributary state of Ibadan because 
of Esu their inveterate enemy ; and at the close of the campaign, 
certain Ibadan war-chiefs who were interested in Esu or the 
town of Otun obtained leave to go to the assistance of their 

Now, although the Ilorins failed to conquer the defenders, 
and they could not drive the Ilorins away, yet by overpowering 
numbers, Otun was closely invested and famine began to do its 
dreadful work within the town ; therefore the Ibadan contingent 
there sent home to ask for a larger relieving force, and " if possible, 
let the Balogun himself come." 

The Ibadan army was once more on the march to the Ekiti country 
for the rehef of Otun, but other complications occurred which 
diverted their attention from Qtun. 

Prior to this expedition the Alara (or king of Ara) had been 
deposed by his people for stealing and selling their children ; the 
poor victims were bound and conveyed out of the town in hampers 
of cotton. The Alara appealed to the Ibadan chiefs at Otun for 
their kind offices and they composed the difference between king 
and people and reinstated the former, the people yielding more 
from fear of the consequences a refusal might entail. 

But about a year after, he was deposed again for his atrocities 
and he escaped again to the Ibadan chiefs at Otun. By this 
time the Balogun of Ibadan and his hosts were on the way to the 
relief of Otun, the chiefs therefore sent their messengers along with 
the Alara to meet the Balogun at Igbajg to tell his own tale Thence 
the Balogun and the principal war-chiefs sent special messengers 
with the Alara once more to compose the difference between him 
and his people and to reinstate him. He was accepted with very 
great reluctance, more from fear of the Ibadans than otherwise. 

This ended the first act in the tragedy which sealed the fate of 


Ara. up to this point there was not the slightest intention of 
destroying the town. 

The Ibadan expedition left Igbajo for the Ila farms and every- 
thing having been eaten up far and near except the farms at Koro, 
the war chiefs after consultation sent special messengers to the 
Ajero of Ijero the paramount chief of Koro for permission to forage 
in the Koro farms. The Ajero replied " The Koros are wild boys : 
a yam may cost you a human head." The Ibadans felt insulted 
at this reply and sent back to the Ajero to say " We only applied 
out of courtesy, and if our peaceful overtures are not complied 
with, two ' wild boys ' will meet in the field within three days, 
and, therefore, all Yoruba (Oyo) residents at Ijero should leave the 
town at once." 

The Ajero called together the Oyg residents in his town and had 
the message repeated in their ears, then he said to them " You may 
go now, but you need not go far, you can wait at Ara or Eriwo 
until the Koros have driven away this Ibadan army, then you can 
come back." So confident was he of the strength of the Koros. 
The Oyo residents accordingly left the town. 

The Ibadans now wended their way to Koro and the Koros 
about 2,000 strong came out to meet them on their frontier at a 
place called Ita Oniyan. The Ibadans were marching according 
to their ranks, the Balogun and Agipa being in the rear, and the 
junior war-chiefs in front, but the Koros had lain in ambush 
and the Ibadans walked into it ; suddenly they fell upon theBalo- 
gun's and the A§ipa's ranks, but in both places they were utterly 
defeated with great slaughter. The Ibadans advanced to the river 
Oyi, the scene of the next fight ; the Koros met them here, and 
again they were defeated. The Ibadans advanced to Yawo a 
place not far from the town, and here the Koros made a stand. 
The Ajero their paramount chief now got alarmed and hastened 
to their assistance. He applied to the Ilorins before Otun, for 
help, and the Ilorins whose sole poUcy was to help one set of Pagans 
against another until they had weakened each and both fall a 
prey to them, lost no time in sending two war-chiefs Adedeji 
and Magobon with horse and men to help the Koros. The Ajero 
sent also to all the towns in his territory including Efon and 
Ara to come to their help and save Koro the strongest town 
in their district which now seemed doomed to destruction. 

Ara alone refused to comply; the Alara said he had just been 
re-instated by the Ibadans, and he could not take up arms against 
them. But the men of Ara were angry with their king's decision, 
they were all for going to the help of their kinsmen against the 
" Qyos " 


But there were two rebel chiefs of Ara who had been expelled 
the town and were living at Ohan ; they considered themselves 
free to join the coalition, and they defiantly came outside the walls 
of Ara inviting their townsmen to come along to the aid of their 
kinsmen. The Alara, unwilling that Ara should be represented in 
the coalition against his benefactors summoned his people to come 
out and drive these rebel chiefs back ; but his summons was not 
obeyed, and he went out himself unaided to intercept them ; there 
was a brief but sharp fight between them in which fell a stout and 
well-to-do citizen who exposed himself between them, trying to 
put an end to the fight, thinking that his person would be respected. 
So the rebel chiefs went on to the help of Koro. 

Ara was not officially represented, as the Alara refused to 
go, and Lejofi the most powerful man in the town whom the 
people would rather follow remained sulky and neutral. 

But when these rebel chiefs saw that there was little hope 
for Koro they sent a private message to apprise the Ard people 
that they would leave Koro at such and such a day and that they 
were to hold themselves in readiness that together they might fall 
upon the Alara and murder him before Koro was taken and his friends 
the Ibadans were free to avenge him. 

The Alara having an intimation of this, summoned the Oyo 
residents at Ara, inviting them to be ready at once to leave the 
town with him, reminding them how on the former occasion 
Chief Ogunmola had reprimanded them for not leaving the town 
when he did, thereby casting their lot as it were with rebels. 

The Alara and these Oyg residents quitted the town fortunately 
just a day before the rebel chiefs came, who together with the 
townsmen gave chase, and pursued after the fugitives and overtook 
them. These had to fight their way to Efgn Ah aye ; they lost 
nearly everything. At a place called Oke Ogbe they made a stand 
and offered a determined resistance to enable the women and 
children to escape safely to Ahky^. This action sealed the fate 
of Ara as we shall see. 

In the meantime the Ibadans were drawing a cordon round 
Koro, and the Ilorin contingent true to their characteristics were 
prepared to escape and abandon their friends. Magobon one of 
their leaders conceived the bold idea of marching right through 
the Ibadan lines, trusting that he would escape undetected. The 
Ibadans who never imagined any venture so foolhardy, at first 
mistook them for a company of their own men, as Magobon stood 
by the standard of chief Sumala the Otun Bale while his people 
were marching past. But as a chief on horseback rode past, 
a man eyed him closely and recognized in him an Ilorin man and 


at once took his gun and shot him down dead on the spot. 
Being now discovered, they took to their heels and were 
pursued and many were caught, but a few swift-footed escaped. 
Another company which took another route hkewise was dis- 
covered and captured. 

But Adedeji the other leader remained at Koro being afraid 
to run the risk : the Ibadans therefore offered him protection if 
he would commit himself unreservedly to their clemency ; he did 
so (there being no alternative) and was allowed to come to the 
Ibadan camp. He remained there a few hours ; he and his men 
were well entertained, and were sent away in peace. Even a 
hatchet one of them left behind at the Ibadan camp in their haste 
to get away the chiefs sent to them in the Otun camp. 

This noble deed of the Ibadans so put the Ilgrin general to 
shame that he negotiated peace with the Ibadans and raised the 
siege of Otun. 

The siege of Otun being raised, the Ibadan contingent there 
together with Esu whom they went to defend were now able 
to join the Ibadan army at Koro ; the " bad boys " were finally 
beaten and the town fell. Ijero the chief town of the district, 
and three other towns also which assisted them were taken, 
Oro surrendered and was placed under tribute but Ara held out 
for two years, being well defended by the powerful chief Lejofi. 

Finding further resistance useless Ara now surrendered and 
brought presents to the camp, and an armistice was concluded. 
On account of their past conduct, and the useless waste of life 
occasioned, the Ibadans while accepting the presents imposed two 
conditions upon them : — 

1. That they should recall their king from Ahaye. 

2. That all the Ara chiefs with Lejofi at their head should come 
and meet him in the camp so that they might have the opportunity 
of hearing both sides, and adjust matters between them. 

The Ara chiefs thought this was a stratagem to get them all 
into their power for capital punishment. They sent for the Alara 
into the camp but the chiefs declined to venture themselves there : 
they offered to pay whatever fines might be imposed on them. 

Then another proposal was made, if they would not come then 
let them send them their fighting men and a guide to Igede in 
the Ado territory. Neither would they comply with this but 
they begged to be subjected to whatever fines they pleased and to 
be placed under tribute, and they would serve them. 

The armistice was now declared at an end, and fighting resumed, 
till the Balogun at length forced his way into the town by an 
assault, and Ara was taken. 


The scene that followed showed how courageous and stout- 
hearted the Ara people were. A band of about i,6oo young men 
choosing death rather than slavery put the muzzle of their loaded 
guns in their mouth, pulled the trigger with their great toe and 
shattered their brains to pieces. 

The great and wealthy Lejofi, in order that the Ibadans might not 
profit at all by his wealth, destroyed all his valuables, with his 
store of provisions, cutting the yams into bits and strewing them 
all over the yard (provisions being so scarce for this great host). 
Then two of his wives were killed to be his attendants in the other 
world, and himself with his own jacknife cut his own throat. 
His eldest son met him weltering in his blood, life not extinct, 
being unable to complete the deed ; he, therefore put an end to 
his father's agonies, loaded the gun afresh and shattered his own 
brains ! 

A man from Oke Mesin, Ladojude by name, whose brother had 
been killed by Lejofi came to avenge his brother's death upon the 
corpse. He kindled a fire from wood obtained in Lejofi's own 
house, threw his body into it and burnt it. 

Thus ended the Ara campaign, as it was called, in 1854 and the 
Ibadan army returned home triumphantly. 

Esu who was relieved and was the indirect cause of this campaign, 
did not go home with them, neither stopped in the vicinity any 
longer, but penetrated further into the Yagba country and there 
established himself. 

§ 5. Raids by the Minor Ibadan Chiefs 

The subjugation of the Ekitis, including the Ijesas, Efons and 
others, may now be said to be complete, but the process seems to 
have reacted to the demoralization of the Ibadan war-chiefs and 
others. Slave-raiding now became a trade to many who would 
get rich speedily, and hence those who felt themselves unlucky 
in one expedition, and others who quickly spent their illgotten 
gains in debauchery and all excesses would band together for a 
raiding expedition on those minor places that have hitherto escaped 
the misfortunes of war. A brief notice will be taken of some of 

Ayorinde. — Chief Ayorinde did not return home with the 
army after the destruction of Ara, but went on first to Isan with 
Esu ; thence they went against the Ades, whom they conquered, 
and then he returned with his hands full. 

Intoxicated with pleasure at his own success, he was lavish 
in his enjoyments and out-stepped the bounds of moderation. 

He offered a thanksgiving sacrifice to his Ori (god of good 


fortune). About the same time for an alleged offence he flogged one 
of his wives to death. For this he was brought under the power 
of the civil authorities, and was told to die. It must be remembered 
that a private individual would be executed at once for murder, 
but a chief must commit suicide by any method he may prefer, 
for if executed pubhcly his house would be demoHshed and his 
family ruined. 

But Aygrinde begged hard for his life. He surrendered nearly 
all he had to no purpose ; then Chief Ogunmgla his patron advised 
him privately to leave the town speedily and go into voluntary 
exile to those regions he lately came from, for even he could not 
save him from the penalties of the law. 

Ayorinde left Ibadan secretly with only 12 followers out of all 
he brought back with him ! When his escape became known 
he was hotly pursued and narrowly escaped with his hfe. He 
went back to Esu with a tale of woe, and located him in a place 
called Irun, and there he remained and organized a band of 
marauders and ravaged all those regions till he encamped against 
a place of some importance named Ogb^gi. He was here for fully 
tei years with varied fortune. Adoyan Okorigi a great and 
powerful warrior came to the help of Ogbagi and Ayorinde was just 
on the point of being defeated when by a skilful move he took 
Okorigi in the rear and inflicted on him a crushing defeat and slew 

Next the Ogbagis obtained help from Rabbah and Ilorin. Sinabu 
King Masaba's son and Hinakonu the Fulani Balogun of Ilorin 
came against him ; thrice was Ayorinde routed, and many of his 
fighting men speared, but he ralHed again and maintained his 
ground. Ogbagi was at length taken. Ayorinde became lord of 
the Akokos and Ido Ani. He opened a caravan way to Ow^ 
through which he obtained ammunition from Benin. He was 
kind to all Oyos, who flocked to his standard ; every one could 
enjoy himself to any extent he liked but he absolutely forbade 
the introduction of intoxicating liquor into that country. They 
might buy whatever they hked with their slaves and booty. He 
himself undertook to supply all ammunition required for their 
raids.' But no one must think of deserting him ; in order to ensure 
this, he posted men in all the exits of'his tenitory : any Oyg 
caught escaping lost all he had and returned home as he came ; 
but any Ekitisor Has similarly caught were seized with their slaves 
and sold to 0^^- 

At last after many years as old age approached Ayorinde longed 
for home. But he knew that he would not be allowed by the 
people of Irun, who befriended him all these years, to depart 


with all his effects to Ibadan, so he manufactured a quarrel with 
them, and captured Irun the headquarters of all his expeditions 
and destroyed the place. In spite of all this precaution not one 
tenth of his slaves returned with him to Ibadan, 

Ayorinde returned to Ibadan in 1872 after a very long absence. 
Nearly all the chiefs he left and the whole of his compeers had 
died out. He met at the head of the government subordinate 
chiefs, who had risen into power during his absence, and to his 
mortification he had to submit to them. He was, however, 
honoured with the title of Osi, but he did not holdit long; he died 
in the following year. 

Abayomi. — Abayomi the Ajiya Bale with Olumiloyg hisBalogun 
got up an expedition to reheve Is^ a tributary town of his in the 
Ekiti country. He met Ayorinde at the siege of Ogbagi but he 
passed off and encamped against Agbad6. The town was soon 
taken and he had an immense number of captives and booty. 
From hence he was proceeding to the relief of Is^. But the cap- 
tured town Agbado being in the territory of Ado, the Balogun 
of the king of Ado was sent to intercept him ; an ambush was laid 
for him, and he was hemmed in on every side. He had to fight his 
way to Is^, and lost all he had taken, and what was more he left 
behind him some of his best fighting men including two of his power- 
ful slaves and Olumiloyo hisBalogun. He arrived at Ise with the 
wreck of his army and returned to Ibadan in a worse condition 
than he left. This was in the year 1857. It will be remembered 
that Olumiloyo was the chief who had direct supervision of the 
missionaries at Ibadan. Readers of " Seventeen years in the 
Yoruba country " (Life of Anna Hinderer) will find frequent 
mention of the name of this chief and how kind and friendly he 
was to the missionaries. He gave Mr. and Mrs. Hinderer two of his 
children a boy and a girl to train, in which he showed himself 
more enlightened than the sirperior cliiefs. The boy was trained 
first by these good missionaries themselves: subsequently at the 
C.M.S. Training Institution at Abeokuta, then he was employed 
as a schoolmaster, Mr. Hinderer himself continuing his education. 
Later he was employed as a catechist in 1885, and finally as an 
ordained missionary of the C.M.S. at Ogbomoso in 1892, where he 
is still labouring. 

Ajobg and the Badas. — While the sieges of Ogbagi and of 
Agbado were going on, all the Badas of Ibadan headed by Ajobg 
the senior Bada got up an expedition against Pakunde. All the 
Efon, Ijesa, and Akoko territories had now become a field for 
slave hunting for any number of men who could band themselves 
together for an expedition. 


The Badas at first meant to take the place by stratagem, 
encamping outside the walls, professing friendship and asking 
for a guide to Ogbagi to meet Esu. But the men of Pakunde 
were too wideawake, and so when strategy failed, hard fighting 
was resorted to. 

But it was reported at Ibadan that these Badas meant to 
establish themselves there after the capture of Pakunde and not 
to return home. This would eventually mean the loss of all the 
tributary towns t6 Ibadan ; consequently Chief Ogunmola of 
Ibadan sent to all the surrounding kings and chiefs subject to 
Ibadan not to let Pakunde be taken. The town was almost on 
the eve of faUing when tidings reached the camp that all the 
men sent to procure provisions at Ikolo, Ado, Oye, Odo Ijesa, 
Ikoyi had been seized and either slain or sold into slavery ! This 
was a blow to the Badas. In whatever direction they sent to 
procure food, they could not get any and no farms were near them 
for foraging. Being in a strait, the camp was broken up in the night 
and they made for home. Their guide took them by a way 
between Ikgle on the left and Omwo in the right ; the Ikoles 
waylaid them and they had to fight their way through. At 
Omu Ijelu whilst they were satisfying the cravings of hunger 
in the farms, the men of the town fell upon them and killed 
many with poisoned arrows. At Aiyede, a town built by Esu 
they were not allowed to forage in the farms. So by forced 
marches, and in a starved condition the wreck of Ajgbo's army 
arrived at Ibadan. 

§ 6. Social Reforms. 

The Present Condition of Slaves. — Ibadan had by this time been 
greatly augmented, not only by immigrants from the provinces 
and elsewhere who repaired there as affording a safer place of 
abode, but also by the thousands of slaves brought in annually. 
It had now become necessary to crystaUize into law a custom that 
had gradually grown amongst the chiefs and people generally, 
who had thousands of them in hand. 

Except under especially pressing circumstances the chiefs do 
not now sell their slaves or rather captives of war excepting the 
old and infirm and that chiefly to procure arms and ammunition. 
The able-bodied men are kept and trained as soldiers, and it has 
become the law and custom that soldier-slaves are never to be sold 
under any circumstances ; they are to remain permanently as 
members of the house. The fair young women are added to the 
harems by the great, and young men save themselves the expenses 
of a dowry by making wives of any that come into their hands. 


Any slave-woman taken as a wife becomes ipso facto a free woman. 
All the rest are sent into the farms, each to be employed in his 
or her own line of work. The chiefs had large farms and farm 
houses containing from a hundred to over a thousand souls. The 
men are engaged in clearing the bush, cultivating the soil, cutting 
palm nuts and doing other male work ; the women in making 
palm oil, nut oil, soap, weaving mats, rearing poultry and the 
smaller cattle, cultivating kitchen vegetables of all kinds for the 
weekly markets and the fairs ; older women in preparing and 
spinning cotton, sheUing palm nuts, etc. All are engaged as 
" hands " in time of harvest. 

These extensive plantations not only support their huge 
establishments but also supply the markets, so that a miUtary state 
though Ibadan was, food was actually cheaper there than in many 
other towns. 

The male slaves had wives given them by their masters from 
among the slave women, whomsoever they may choose, or if 
their choice lay elsewhere, the master would redeem any woman 
for them. Their offspring are home-born slaves, belonging to the 
master ; their condition is hardly different from that of the 
freeborn, all grow together as children of the house. Thus by 
slave-raiding and procreation the great houses are enlarged and 
the population of the town increased. 

Well-to-do women in the town also buy slaves of both sexes, 
their offspring belong to them in the same way as the parents 
themselves, but barring exceptional cases of distress occasioning 
the ruin of the house they are never to be sold. 

Of the slaves who are kept as soldiers, some are selected as body- 
guards or personal attendants; these are provided for in every way 
by the master. The rest follow their own avocation and provide 
for themselves ; their services are only required in time of war. 
If the slave is successful in war and catches several slaves, he is to 
surrender them to his master ; a kind master will return him one 
or two fifths for his own purpose and keep the rest. An unkind 
master will keep all, as the service he has rendered him is his 
duty. Some masters would give money as consolation from the 
proceeds of any of the slaves he may sell. Any of these slaves 
is at liberty to procure his own freedom at any time. A wise one, 
who has captured one or two slaves in war, gives them 
back to his master in the presence of witnesses in lieu of 
himself, and thereby his ransom is paid ; he is free now to go 
any where he likes. Those who wish to remain permanently 
with the master nevertheless remove to a friend's house for 
a short time and in that way publicly make known their freedom; 


and then they may return to the master's house, and serve under 
him in war as freeborn soldiers and in that case give to their 
master as any other freeborn does one or two captives as the case 
may be and appropriate the rest. They are protected by the law 
as any freeborn citizen. 

Others who consider themselves free and safe under the pro- 
tection of a great name, as slaves of a powerful chief, will squander 
whatever they may have in hope of replenishing their stock at the 
next opportunity. 

Freeborn soldiers who are independent give to their captain a 
proportion of i or 2 out of 5 and appropriate the rest ; but if he 
is an idle fellow and dependent on his captain for everything, 
including his war accoutrements and his debts, he has to give up 
more than a half or nearly all of what he captured. 

Highly Placed Servants. — At this period the chiefs were in the 
habit of installing favourite slaves into a position of trust and 
responsibility especially if they were brave and energetic and 
proved themselves worthy of trust. These keep horses of their own, 
farms and farm-houses, have harems, a drummer and lifer, etc. 
Young slaves and recruits are placed under them to be trained 
for war. At the return of every expedition a fourth or a fifth 
of the captives taken are given to the master; they appropriate the 
rest. They are generally more richly dressed and make more 
show than their lord. Whatever the misfortunes of the house 
these of course are never sold : they remain the guardians of the 
house and of their master's sons. Their children may be considered 
as home born slaves, but practically are indistinguishable from 
freeborn children. These servants are "slaves" only in name 
for want of a better term. These customs originating at Ibadan 
have been followed by all the Oyo states throughout. The 
more of these highly placed servants a chief has, the greater he 
is held to be. 

The Law of Inheritance. — Hitherto when a man dies all his 
effects are inherited by his brother or brothers in succession until 
the turn of the eldest son comes, then he gets whatever may 
remain of what was once his father's, but in most cases, he gets 
nothing at all. It has happened within the experience of the chiefs 
that whilst one is toiling and saving, some brothers are idle and 
dissolute, and yet at his death, the idle and dissolute will step 
in and squander all he has saved, leaving his children to welter 
in poverty and want. 

At a deliberative council held in the year 1858 it was proposed 
to alter this custom. For whom is a man toiling and saving? 
The answer comes naturally " For his children." Why then 


should a brother displace one's children in the succession ? If 
the children are minors the uncle may act for them until they 
are of age, otherwise the eldest surviving issue of the founder 
of a house must succeed as the head of the house in rotation until 
it comes to the turn of the children of the next generation. This 
is not like the English law of primogeniture in which only the 
eldest sons succeed, but it is the eldest surviving issue of the 
founder of a house that succeeds, until the turn of the eldest 
son of the first successor comes round. 

But the members of the family are not totally overlooked. At 
the time of the succession the personal effects are distributed 
amongst the nearest relatives, every one having a share of the 
clothes, slaves, money, etc., but the house, inalienable slaves, 
principal farms, in a word, the real property, and all that goes to 
make the house what it is, are never to be ahenated. These are 
assigned to the eldest surviving son and successor. 

Every house is under the protection of a chief, a chief's house 
is under the protection of the paramount chief or the town council 
and these will see about the installation of the successor. In a 
great house, the highly placed servants will be in charge to train 
and direct their young master in the ways of his father. 

These resolutions were communicated to the AlAfin of Oyo 
for his approval, and he not only approved but adopted the same 
for all Oyo states, and moreover he adopted the same for the Crown 
also. He ruled thereupon that the custom that has arisen during 
the degenerate times of Old Oyo that the Aremo (Crown Prince) 
die with his father should cease and the earlier custom reverted 
to. He wished his eldest son Adelu to succeed him, and after him 
the eldest surviving issue of the house as seems fit to the King Makers. 

In the year 1858 Ibadan was so thickly populated that it was 
found necessary to extend the town walls. The new wall was 
known as Odi Ibikunle (Ibikunle's town wall) after the Balogun, 
as it was he who suggested, planned and superintended the carry- 
ing out of the work. This is the present town wall. 

Ogunmola also suggested that Ibadan should have what is 
known as " Igbo He," i.e. home forest, the thick bush surrounding 
every town in the Yoruba country, which may be exposed to 
raids and sieges. But the Ibadans did not care for any such 
thing and it could not be carried into effect, for they had no one to 
fear. The annual bush fires were allowed to nullify Ogunmola's 

Chapter XVIII 


§ I. Death of King Atiba. 

Atiba the AlAfin of Oyq lived to a good old age. Of few Kings 
do we know so much as we do of him ; he was a link with the past, 
and lived within the days of authentic history. He was the father 
of several princes and princesses whose names are the following : — 



Adelu {The 

Crown Prince) 






Ogboja III. 


Adesetan II. 


Ade Oy6 







Ogboja I. 

Ogboja IV. 



Ogboja II. 



Tela Okiti papa 

Akere I. 

Ogboja V. 

Tela Agboj 

u Qgo 

Akere II. 



c f Adeduntan 
f, \ Adewale 




Ogboja" VI. 



Akere III. 


Adesetan I. 


Of these the ist and the 4th succeeded to the throne. 

A few remarks on some of the princes : — 

Adelu was much older than his brothers or sisters, for he was 
born when his father was qiiite a young man, long before he entered 
into his career of a war-like prince. He was much beloved by 
his father because he was a very dutiful son and shared with him 
most of the dangers and privations of war in those turbulent days 
of his early career. By virtue of his birthright he became the 
Aremo when his father ascended the throne. 

Ogo was the Aremg Oy^ i.e., the first born after the father's 

Adewusi was Adelu's brother, of the same mother, and was 
of a contrary disposition. He was wild, undutiful and cruel. 
Re once quarrelled with his father, and with a cutlass cut off 
all the mattings that enclosed the Aganju (throne room). He 
quarrelled with his half brother Ala by seizing from him a plot 
of land the latter had obtained for farming, containing many 



palm and kola trees. Adewusi went and secured the same spot 
for himself by affixing thereon a symbol of the Egugun curse on 
any trespasser. When Ala went to remonstrate with him, 
he stabbed him to death with a knife ! The father thereupon 
sentenced him to be executed by strangling ! 

Aid was of the same mother with Adelabu. 

Adeyemi who subsequently succeeded his brother on the throne 
was of the same mother as Olawoyin. He enjoyed the longest 
reign of modern times ; more of him hereafter. 

Agbgnrin, nick-named Allah ni yio bo Asiri (God will hide 
secrets) was also a prince of a most cruel disposition. His 
favourite (?) wife was once preparing his Okra leaf sauce with 
strained ash, which was a milder form of the carbonate of potash 
used in such cases. He thereupon compelled her to drink a 
calabashful of caustic potash, and she died soon after from inflam- 
mation of the stomach and bowels. He once caught a young man 
in his farm cutting palm nuts. Upon his begging him to spare his 
Ufe Agbonrin said he would do so if the young man could climb 
up again and replace the nuts ; this being impossible he clubbed 
him to death ! 

The conduct of many of these princes brought great discredit 
on. royalty. Very few of the crimes they committed ever reached 
the ears of their father for who would undertake to report them. 
Hence the licence they allowed themselves without the father's 
knowledge for he never spared them. 

King Atiba was now old and full of years. Early in the year 
1858 he was resolved on celebrating the Bebe (the Bebe is akin 
to the Royal Jubilee, and only Kings who have had a long and 
peaceful reign celebrate it). Yorubaland is now free from the 
incursions of foreign foes, the Fulanis of Ilorin permanently 
checked. All now was peace ; the people were content and prosper- 
ous, and therefore the King thought a Bebe should be celebrated. 
But inasmuch as the few Kings who celebrated it died soon after 
doing so, that festival came to to be regarded as celebrating one s 
funeral rites, hence Beb§ is sometimes termed the " Iku " (death). 

The Are of Ijaye and others who were attached to him strongly 
advised him not to doit, as it might portend his death. His Majesty 
replied " Well, I am old enough and do not care to live much 

Notification of this was sent round everywhere and delegates 
came from every part of the Yoruba country to observe this 
festival with the King. From Saki alone came about 200 Eguguns, 
and so from all other Oke Ogun towns for the ceremonies. 

Booths were erected all over the palace street from the Abata 


(frontage of the palace) to the Akesan market for the visitors. 
The Oyo noblemen also hved in tents, in front of their houses, until 
the ceremonies were over. 

The ceremonies partook of the character partly of the coronation 
and partly of the funeral rites, the principal part of it being done 
privately, at dead of night. 

On the eve of the Bebe the King paid a visit to the Bkrk to 
perform certain ceremonies there as a thank-offering sacrifice 
to his fathers. We have mentioned in Part I. that only on the 
coronation do the Kings ever enter there, and never afterwards 
till they are taken there for interment. This festival forms an 

Tents made of beautifully woven cloths were set up and enclosed 
with mattings at the Abata, the Akesan, the Apini, and near the 
Bkrk for the King as on the coronation. Attended by all the 
noblemen he issued from the palace and entered each of these 
tents in succession, the noblemen waiting outside and only one 
woman (probably a priestess) accompanied him into the tent. 
He remained half an hour or an hour in each performing certain 
ceremonies, and sent presents of kola nuts to those waiting outside 
and so on till he reached the Bkra. On his return, that very evening 
the general festivities began. All the Eguguns observed a vigil, 
the voice of the Agan being heard all night. The next day an 
Egugun confinement was proclaimed in which all women and 
children must remain indoors. The Egiiguns our readers will 
remember are the denizens of the other world, and are supposed 
to be our dead relatives on a visit to us. 

For a limited space of time during the day, licence was granted 
to all the Eguguns' attendants to seize goats, sheep or fowl found 
in the streets : none was to exceed that fixed time, whoever did 
was arrested and made to pay a fine of 25 heads of cowries (equiv. 
to {,1 5s. then) for each animal. In the afternoon of this day the 
King came outside the palace attended again by a woman, the large 
gate being shut ; the whole area between the palace and the Akesan 
was full of Egiiguns. He sat on a hide, and rechned on a bolster, 
the wife sitting by his side was by special permission initiated into 
the Egiigun mysteries. Then appeared the supposed spirit of his 
father dressed in the skin of the red monkey ; the King prostrated 
before his father and the " monkey " rubbed him all over with its 
tail and blessed him. 

It was supposed that Eru-if a one of his slaves was under the mask 
on this occasion. The King's " funeral " expenses on this occasion 
can only be imagined. 

Not long after this celebration, the King's health which had 


not been very good lately, markedly declined. He was soon 
reported ill. Whether anything deleterious to health was applied 
on him with the tail of the red monkey or not, we cannot tell, 
but His Majesty succumbed under the ailment and was gathered 
unto his fathers, and the Bara was soon again the scene of a great 
ceremony sombre and sad. 

Before the King's death, anticipating trouble for his eldest 
son Adelu. from sticklers after precedents, he reminded the Ibadans 
of the new law of succession he had sanctioned and begged them 
to stand by the Crown Prince and support his claim for he did not 
wish him to die with his father. And this they promised on oath. 
Thus passed away Atiba the first Alafin of the present Oyo 
and Adelu his son was proclaimed King in his stead. 

§ 2. Circumstances that led to the Ijaye War. 

Adelu the son and successor of Atiba was acknowledged 
King by all, except Kurumi the Are of Ijaye. 

Towards the latter end of Atiba's reign, there was some dis- 
affection between him and the Are ; this breach with the Crown 
widened by the succession of Adelu whom the Are refused to 
acknowledge as a lawful successor to his father. " It is contrary 
to custom " said he, " and the Aremg should die with his father." 
He never repaired to Oyo to do homage according to custom, nor 
even sent a congratulatory message. He was for seeking for another 
prince of the older hne, of the royal family at Igboho or Kihisi 
to succeed Atiba, but Adelu having been duly elected and accepted 
by the denizens of the palace and obtaining the support of the 
Ibadan chiefs, ascended the throne in due form, and the pretext 
for an open rupture which the Are had long been seeking was 
hereby afforded. The common people also catching the spirit of 
the times sang in their dances: 

" Atiba ma ti ilg, (" Atiba don't go yet awhile, 

Duro de Adelu O ! " Wait for your Adelu pray ! " ) 

The AlAfin was conciUatory towards the Are, who was the 
comrade of his father in their old warHke days, but the Are remained 
irreconcilable. Every means of averting war was resorted to, 
but the Are remained obdurate and insolent. Matters came to a 
crisis when a rich lady Abu by name, died intestate at Ijanna; 
she left no heirs, and as such the property reverted to the Crown. 
But Ijanna being directly under Ijaye, owing to the breach between 
the King and Kurumi, the townfolk were divided in their opinions 
as to the disposal of the property. They feared the power of Ijaye 
on the one hand and yet loyalty to the Crown dictated a contrary 


action ; so one party sent to Oyq to request that the King should 
send to take over the property, the other party sent a similar 
message to Ijaye. The King anticipating danger to those whom he 
sent for the treasure ordered a well equipped force under Akingbe- 
hin Aleyo the Ona-aka, and the Aremg's Balogun to escort them. 
But Kurumi sent a body of troops to waylay them, and the Oyo 
escorts with the messengers bringing the treasures were attacked 
by the Ijaye troops at Apata Miba near Oke 'ho and were dispersed 
some escaping to Oke'ho others to Iseyin. Within four days they 
collected themselves together at Iseyin and met there with the Oyo 
traders who could not return home for fear of the Ijaye kidnappers 
but who now availed themselves of the protection of the escorts 
to return home. 

The Ijaye troops under the command of Amodu intercepted 
them again between Iseyin and Oyo. The I j ayes encamped on 
a rock named afterwards Apata Jabata because there the Jabata 
of Oyo fell. When they met, the Oyo escorts asked, " And 
who are ye? " They repUed, " We are from Oyo sent by the 
AlAfin to escort you home," allowing them to come very near; 
when suddenly the Ijaye troops opened fire upon them and so 
dispersed the Oyo troops with the traders and all. About 240 of 
them were taken captive exclusive of some minor chiefs, e.g. 
Aridede, Algy6, Jigin, etc. The head priest of Sango lost 10 of 
his daughters caught in this raid. 

The AlAfin sent again and again requesting the Are to release 
them but he obstinately refused to do so, saying unless they were 
redeemed for 10 bags of cowries each. [The price of slaves at 
that period being about half that amount.] 

The AlAfin sent back to say " I have a claim on you to demand 
the release of these people, for besides being the King of YoRUBA 
to whom allegiance is due, remember what I did for you in the 
past. When you sent one Dayiro on an expedition and the people 
of Saki defeated him and made about 210 of his men prisoners, 
did I not use my authority and influence and obtain the release 
of them all and send them to you free of charge ? Why should you 
now detain my own people ? " 

[The above incident relates to one of the acts of the King to 
concihate the Are's refractoriness]. Still the Are refused point- 
blank to release them. And further, in order to avert war with 
Ijaye, His Majesty sent the Samu (one of the Oyo Mesi) via Ijaye 
to Ibadan to ask the Ibadan Chiefs to second his remonstrance and 
prevail on the Are to release his people. The Are was inexorable, 
and even chased the Samu on his way to Ibadan ; the Samu 
escaped the pursuers and returned home via Iwo. The AlAfin 


then gave orders that the Oyo people should go to Ijaye and 
redeem each one his relatives as soon as possible. 

The Alafin was now determined to punish Ijaye by the help 
of the Ibadans ; he therefore sent to them 40 slaves, 8 demijohns of 
beads.with gowns and vests, saying he had declared war against Ijaye. 

The matter was taken up warmly at Ibadan ; many remembered 
that the town was placed under a ban by the late Basorun Oluyole 
who failed to take it himself. The Balogun of Ibadan alone among 
the senior chiefs was for peaceful measures. " Kurumi is an old 
man " said he, " and will soon die, and the Ijayes are our kinsmen." 

The other chiefs imposed a fine on him for thus " betraying 
cowardice." But they knew well enough his matchless valour 
and undaunted courage, and the real cause of his reluctance 
to rush into a war of this kind. Ijaye was a town of equal import- 
ance with Ibadan, equal in valour, courage, and skill, and both 
with vast connections between each other and all over the country ; 
for them to engage in war would mean deluging the whole of Yoruba- 
land with blood. But when he could not prevail over his generals, 
and the common soldiers affixed a crow to his house at night imply- 
ing that he was a coward (as cowardly as a crow is a common 
expression in this country) ; and also threw stones into his 
house, he yielded to public opinion and commenced his own 
preparations for war. 

When the Are of Ijaye heard of the movement against him, 
being self-confident he was loud in his boastings : " On this post 
will I chain that imp of Ogunmola," " Ibikunle will have cause to 
remember the Odogido disaster," and so forth. He gave orders 
that all the youths of Ijaye should be trained to the use of 
bow and arrows, the older men superintending the practice. 
To those who succeeded as good marksmen he awarded prizes. 
This practice was termed " Se e " and was carried out daily 
without intermission. 

Being fond of singing and dancing the Are kept amusing himself 
with parabolic songs and witty sayings e.g. 

" A ta gpolo ni ipa, o sun ikaka, 

Gbogbo wa ni yio ku bere." 
(A frog is kicked and lies on its back. 
We shall all die by myriads.) 

The common people took up the same against the AlAfin 
and the Ibadans. Against the Ibadans they sang : — 
" Ibadan a k6 gba Ajele Ibadan we can accept no Resident, 

Orogun li awa ise." For rivals are we. 

This meant to say "We cannot serve or yield to you." 


Against the AlAfin they sang : — 

" L'aiye Onalu^ \i a ro okan le gkan 

L'aiye Kurumi U a ro'gba ro'gba 

L'aiye Adelu ni ipele di itele idi." 
(In Onalu's time we used changes of dress. 
In Kurumi's time we used cloths of the finest weaving 
In Adelu's time our best becomes our every day's.) 

This last description of Adelu's time is a well-understood irony. 
It is a common saying in this country " Ibere otosi bi omg 
olor6 la iri " (When poverty begins, one appears like a rich man's 
son) which means that when one cannot afford to replace the 
everyday dress, one resorts to his best for every day use 
and thus appears like a rich man ; but the real condition soon 
becomes apparent when this cannot be replaced. This condition 
is what they would now apply to Adelu's regime. 

The tocsin of war was now resounding from one end of the 
country to another. Kuriimi disallowed the exportation 
of foodstuffs to Ibadan, The Ibadans sought the aUiance 
or at least the neutraUty of Abeokuta and Ilorin and pressed 
into service the Oyo towns under her protection. Kurumi 
sent one Oje to conclude an alhance with the Egbas and to 
procure ammunition, but Ogunmola of Ibadan, who was 
entrusted with the negotiations with Abeokuta forestalled 
him, and they took an oath of friendship and neutrahty with 

The populace of Ibadan were now singing in their dances : — 

" Akope Ijaye ki o mk ko ti Ika mo, 
Onigbo da 'gbo meji." 
(Palm cutters of Ijaye do not venture to Ika, 
The lord of the forests divides it in two.) 

By a transposition of names the Ijayes were singing the same 
ditty, Ika being just midway between the two towns. Inter- 
communication now ceased. On all hands were heard " Onile ki o 
gbe ile ko kan odi yiyan." (Let every man keep to his own house, 
that need not imply animosity.) The kidnappers soon began to 
infest the farms; thus the Ibadans kidnapped two American 
missionaries who hearing of the rumours of war and incursions 
of the kidnappers went in search of Mr. J. C. Vaughan at his 
farm at Ido. Mr. Vaughan had escaped back to Ijaye by another 
route, and the missionaries were caught and brought to Ibadan 

^ Kurumi s other name. 


on the 20th of February i860. These war boys, not knowing what 
to do with white men, brought them with their horses mounted 
as they were, to the Rev. D. Hinderer, sa3ang " White man, we 
have brought you your brothers," Mr. Hinderer thanked them and 
gave them some cowries to procure refreshments. The gentlemen 
were sent on to Abeokuta the next day, communication with 
that town being then still free and uninterrupted. 

All hopes of a pacific settlement were now given up, for private 
messages, advices, and remonstrances were without number to 
the Are ; but for all this Kurumi remained unyielding to the King, 
and defiant to Ibadan. War was now formally declared. When at 
the next meeting of the town council, the Balogun arose in his 
place and harangued the assembly ending with " Eyin omo Jama, 
Mo fi Ijaye jin o " (Young men, Ijaye is now given up to you) 
a loud and prolonged huzza of " Muso, Muso," greeted his 
astonished ears. He was painfully impressed with the knowledge 
of how popular the war was. Orafiyan was worshipped and the 
standard of war was borne out once more by the valiant and 
experienced commander-in-chief Ibikunle on the loth of April, 
i860. It was known to all that Balogun Ibikunle went forth to this 
war with great reluctance. He had seen many battles and known 
well the horrors of a siege, and of all sieges one against one's own 
blood relations was particularly horrid and heartrending to him. 
Inter-marriages and national festivals which they had in common 
had made them one ; they were sharers together in times past 
of weal and woe ; supply of foodstuffs for overgrown Ibadan came 
largely from Ijaye where the soil was fertile and the people 
industrious. These considerations therefore made the bravest 
shrink from a war that might possibly be averted. 

When starting for the expedition, as soon as his foot was on the 
stirrup, his Akewi (bard) gave utterance to the following pathetic 

" Baba mi fire igbo gdaju o ! o ! o ! 
Nibi ti olgmg meji yio ku okan, 
Nibi ti olomo kan yio p6h6ra, 
' lya mi ni lima wa' — ki o pada lehin Baba mi, 
' Baba mi ni fima wa' — ki o pada lehin Baba mi, 

Kiniun Onibudo. 
' lyawo mi to igbe " — ki o pada lehin Baba mi, i, i, 
Kiriniun Onibudo." 

(My master is going to the field of the heartless ah ! ah 1 ah me 1 
Where the parent of two will be left with but one. 
Where the parent of one will be left all forlorn. 


Let him whose mother forbids him to come return from follow- 
ing my Lord, 
Let him whose father forbids him to come return from follow- 
ing my Lord. 

The Lion of the Master of camps, 
Let him whose betrothed is of age to be wed return from 
following my Lord. 

The Lion of the Master of camps). 

As the expedition started the drummer struck up the war march 
" Kiriniun Onibudo." 

[Toki surnamed Onibudo, master of camps, it will be remem- 
bered was a formidable war-chief, the Seriki of the Ibadan army 
and the uncle of this chief. He succeeded his uncle as Seriki 
from which post he rose to be Balogun. He is eulogized as the 
lion that rendered chief Toki to be so formidable.] 

Ogunmola who had gone to intercept Oj^ did not return home, 
but awaited the Balogun at Orita Elepo a small resting place 
about four miles from Ibadan town, at the junction of the 
two roads leading from the Oyo gate and Inalende gate of 

§ 3. When Greek meets Greek 

The Ijayes were not idle either, and did not wait at home 
with folded arms for the Ibadans to come. The fu-st battle 
took place at Apata Ika — the Ika rock just midway between the 
two towns — and the Are soon found, too late, and to his cost the 
truth of the message sent him that he should yield and accept a 
compromise and not haughtily compare the Ibadans of the present 
day to those of yore. But he was truly a born warrior and never 
lost courage, notwithstanding that he had now to contend with a 
younger generation of Ibadans who were quite inured to the hard- 
ships of the field and whose trade was war. 

But the Are's eyes were now open when too late to yet another 
folly of his. In order that he might secure for himself a safe and 
despotic position, he had killed so many brave men of Ijaye and 
had forbidden any chief to accumulate ammunitions of war, that 
only three hard battles were fought before he found his magazines 
exhausted. The Ijayes now resorted to bows and arrows and 
consequently they lost ground rapidly. But for this probably 
the war would have ended in a draw as before. 

The Egbas were now resolved to take part in this war. The 
majority were for assisting Ijaye. Sokenu alone was against 
their taking this course " after the oath of alUance and friendship 


taken with the Ibadans," said he, " it will be a serious breach 
of faith, and even the gods will be against us." 

This opposition, it was said, was the cause of his early death. 
The altercation was sharp, and the other chiefs in going said to him 
" We must not meet you alive on our return," and he retorted 
" If at all you return alive." Shortly after this Sokenu became 
paralysed (from poison it was said) and died. 

The expedition was commanded by Angba the Balogun of Oba 
as generalissimo — all the other Baloguns including Somoye 
" Basgrun " the Balogun of Iporo had to serve under him. They 
halted for a long while at Atadi, 12 miles from home, undecided 
what course to take : then they proceeded to Olokemeji where, 
still of two opinions, they debated the matter afresh, whether to go 
to the help of the Ibadans with whom they had formed an alhance 
or to the assistance of Ijaye. (Olokemeji is a central and neutral 
ground for the Ijaye, Ibadan, andtheOke Ogun hunters). They 
finally decided to help the Ijayes, " to raise the siege, and drive 
away the Ibadans and dispossess them of those kola groves originally 
planted by our fathers and grandfathers." This last idea swayed 
them. Thus it was subsequently reported at Ibadan. But there is 
an Egba version of the reason why they decided to ally themselves 
with the Ijayes. Some one alleged that Ogunmgla was reported 
to have said that after shaving the crown of the head he would shave 
the occiput ! Meaning after taking Ijaye he would also take 
Abeokuta ! But there is no proof whatever of this assertion, 
especially as there was no occasion for any such thing. And 
again Ogunmgla the author of the treaty of friendship and alliance 
was not the man to utter such a threat, which he certainly was 
not in a position to carry out, being a subordinate officer. And if 
he did say it, there would not have been such a prolonged 
hesitation amongst the Egbas, and such divided counsel as 
to what course they should pursue. The former version there- 
fore, is far more probable. 

Thus they proceeded from Olokemeji to Ijaye. But the vener- 
able Chief Ogunbgna, Balogun of Ikija did not proceed with them; 
he remained encamped at Olokemeji to be a protection and guard 
to caravans going and coming between that place and Ijaye. 

The Ijebus also as kith and kin to a portion of the Egbas seemed 
to have entered into an agreement to be one with them for offensive 
and defensive purposes. Hence when the Egbas went to Ijaye 
against the Ibadans, they also for no other reason entered into a 
state of warfare against Ibadan. 

Mele the Ibadan state messenger to the Ijebus in the days of 
Oluygle the late Ba§grun was again sent with Kobiowu the 


Jagun to conclude a treaty of friendship with the Ijebus before 
their attitude was known. But the Ijebus sent a body of troops 
which attacked them at Odo Ona even before they had left the 
Ibadan farms, on their way to Ijebu ! With shield and spear 
Mele bravely defended himself and retreated with his party home 
with only slight wounds. 

The Emir of Ilgrin also embraced this opportunity for declaring 
war against Ibadan. The " Kafiris " (infidels) said he, " are at 
war with one another, and we should combine against this Ibadan 
which has often baulked us of our prey ; we may yet carry the 
Koran to the sea." He sent some horsemen to Ijaye, who when 
they observed the starvation and distress that ensued, could not 
remain long ; however, they kept kidnapping in the Oyo farms. 

The Owa of Ilesa not only revolted against Ibadan, but also 
took advantage of the coalition to take revenge upon Efon Ahkye 
and other towns which were allies of the Ibadans during the late 
Ijebu Er§ and Ar4 wars. 

Thus practically all the principal states in Yorubaland were 
combined to crush the Ibadans who had rid the country of the 
great bug-bear of the Fulani subjugation, but in turn became so 
restless as to be a source of anxiety to them all. 

But a section of the Ijebus viz. Ijebu Remo with Keher6 the 
Balogun of Ipara at their head was friendly to the Ibadans. They 
held that they were a commercial people, and Ibadan not only 
their best, but also their only customer, and one time their deliverer 
in the time of Lakanle ; and they could not see their way to join 
in a war that did not concern them. The periodic 9 days' market, 
therefore, was continued between them, and as we shall see here- 
after the Ibadans had to fight their way there and back, escorting 

Meanwhile the struggle between the combatants was proceeding. 
The third and last battle fought before the arrival of the Egbas 
had exhausted the Are's store of ammunition. The battle was 
fought in his own farm and was one of the bloodiest ever fought 
in this campaign. Nothing but the intrepid personal bravery of 
the Are saved him from being taken alive that day ; had he given 
ground an inch he would have irretrievably lost the day. 

There were only two fierce battles fought afterwards that may be 
compared to this last ; on the last occasion the Are at the head 
of his choicest troops charged the Ibadan centre with intrepidity 
and desperation, with a determination to break through, but the 
Ibadans remained firm and impregnable. The circumstances will 
be related below. 

The Egbas arrived at Ijaye in the nick of time to replenish 


the exhausted stores of the Ijayes. The Are who from experience 
knew the strength of the Ibadans, forewarned them to be very 
cautious and not to encamp outside the walls of Ijaye. The Egbas 
fresh from home and buoyant in spirits spurned the idea of 
" sheltering " themselves within the walls of the town ; however, 
they encamped without but close by the walls of Ijaye. 

The camp of the Ibadans was at this time at Olorisa Oko, 
about 3 hours' walk from Ijaye. The Balogun of Ibadan could 
not at first be made to beheve that the Egbas came as alHes to the 
Ijayes after the oaths they had taken with Ibadan. To those who 
brought the report he said " Yes, they may have come but it must 
be to negotiate peace between us." Over and over again he was 
assured that they have come with a mighty army. " Yes," he 
repHed, " it must be to put an end to the war." But at last, the 
Balogun was taken quite aback when a band of skirmishers returned 
and reported that they were driven back by the Egbas who came 
in overwhelming numbers against them. The Ibadans were 
alarmed and dismayed at the report. " In Kuriimi," said they, 
" we have an equal match already, and how to face the combined 
force with the overwhelming host of the Egbas ? " 

But the principal chiefs encouraged one another and were 
determined to die rather than yield. " Death," said they " was 
preferable to the shame of a defeat, or the humiliation of being 
made a prisoner." " Here is his head is better than here is his 
face " said Ogunmola. " If we cannot resist them here, surely we 
shall not be able to do so at home if driven from this place." He 
then took out his jack knife and displaying it before all his colleagues 
he said " It must be victory or Death." 

A council of war was held, and it was resolved that they 
should wait until the Egbas came and attacked them, and if they 
succeeded in repelling the attack then they would have hopes of 
being able to maintain their ground ; but if they went and offered 
battle first and were forced to retreat, it was certain the men would 
be disheartened and really demoralized, and there would be a poor 
chance for them — ^it would end for them in a total defeat. One 
Kujeiiyo a babalawo or If a priest was thereupon commissioned 
to make charms to provoke the Egbas to come forward to fight. 

The Egbas on the other hand fresh from home were eager to offer 
battle, contrary to the advice of the Are of Ijaye. " Let them 
come first and attack you here," said the Are to the Egbas, " but 
never go after them," But the Egbas repHed that when they left 
home they meant business and were not afraid of the Ibadans. 
A period of about a fortnight elapsed in which there was inaction 
on both sides. 


At length the day arrived and to the field the Egbas led their 
troops with flying colours. The Ibadan outposts reported the 
advance of the Egbas in the order of battle. The Balogun of 
Ibadan issued orders that no one should fire a gun until the word of 
command was given. The Egbas came within a few yards of the 
entrenchments and their fire wounded several persons within the 
Ibadan camp before the command was given. The Balogun's voice 
rang out " Omo Ibadan, e gba e fi ti won " (Ibadan boys, up and at 
them). Then the Ibadans rushed out, and the struggle commenced. 

At the first onslaught of the Ibadans, the Egbas retreated about 
a hundred yards and made a stand, and then ensued a most 
desperate fight on both sides. To the Ibadans it was a matter 
of life and death, and their one thought was whether they would be 
able to maintain their ground against the overwhelming odds of 
the Egbas, the I j ayes being now at a discount ; but it was not 
long before they became confident that they could certainly 
maintain their ground. 

Ogunmola being a man of small stature was wont to be mounted 
on the tallest horse he could possibly obtain, and move from point 
to point in the field observing the men's behaviour, and singling 
out individuals for praise or blame. On this occasion, having 
observed for a while the methods of the Egbas, he rode up joyfully 
to the Commander-in-Chief saying " Ibikunle, a o se won, a o se 
won, Egba ko mo ogun jija " (Ibikunle, we shall win, we shall 
win. The Egbas have no knowledge of the art of war). 

What Ogunmola observed was as follows :— As the combatants 
on both sides came company by company to the firing line (what 
they call Tawusi), Ogunmola noticed in the first place that the 
Egba shooting was too high, and that the men under fire were 
rarely ever hit, whilst the Ibadans had been taught to shoot low, 
and consequently they scored several hits among their foes. Again 
the Egbas discharged all their muskets at once and all turned 
back together before the reheving company came up ; whereas 
the Ibadans kept a reserved fire with which they accompanied 
the retiring foe, so that the retiring was more or less a disorderly 
retreat, and again they kept their place until their own relieving 
company came up, and more often gained a few yards forward 
before those of the Egbas came up, and thus gradually were 
gaining more and more ground. Ogunmola noticing all this 
was sure that, according to their own method of fighting, when 
later on, the Balogun arose to fight, and all men and all arms must 
push forward in a general engagement, this disorderly retreat of 
the Egbas would be converted to a general rout. Hence he was 
confident in assuring the Balogun that they would win. 


But long before it was time for that, another officer, viz. 
Abayomi the Ajiya Bale planned out tactics of his own. As all the 
Bale's Jfighting men were disposed as strategy requires he seemed 
to know that the Egbas left their flank unguarded ; he left the 
main body of his men at their post, and chose out a number of 
brave fellows to cut through the bush a great way off and suddenly 
burst upon the Egbas at the rear with a shout, and away fled the 
whole host panic stricken, and the rout was complete. There 
was a morass a little way off called Alabata which many of them 
were driven into, and were either slaughtered or taken alive. Some 
never halted but fled from the battlefield into the camp and from 
the camp into the town of Ijaye, others at full speed homewards 
the Ibadan boys pursuing. 

Ijaye would have been taken that day but for the Are. Watch- 
ing the movements of the Egbas, he noticed their lack of skill in 
their manoeuvring and fighting, and anticipating a disaster he 
held his men in readiness for eventualities. As soon as the Egbas 
gave way and the Ibadans were in pursuit, he made a flank move- 
ment and intercepted the Ibadans ; and these, seeing there were no 
chiefs behind them to back them up, hastily retired from the 
pursuit. The chiefs did not give chase for fear of what the Are 
might do, but they kept an eye on him ; for he might take them in 
the rear and convert their victory into a defeat. 

From that day the Ibadans were confident of ultimate 
success and the Ijaye chiefs despaired of driving back the 
enemy. The Egbas were much enraged and ashamed of this defeat 
which they attributed to the cowardice of their Generalissimo 
Anoba, and for this they ordered him to " go to sleep " (a 
euphemism for suicide). They said that instead of coming up to 
their assistance with the reserved forces, he himself gave 
way also ! 

The Ibadan boys ascribed this victory to Ajiya Abayomi 
in their songs and dances : — 

" Ajiya nikan I'o le'gun, 'Twas Ajiya singly routed the foe, 

Iwi I'a ko gbodg wi." But we must not say 'tis so.) 

A very large number of captives fell into the hands of Ogunmola, 
and as the author of the treaty, which was so perfidiously broken 
he took vengeance on many of them, by ordering their faces to be 
branded with broad Tapa marks, and exultingly took a name on it 
" Emi a so Egba di Tapa " (the transformer of ?gbas into 
Tapas). He, moreover, ordered yam peels to be rubbed 
on the marks in order that the irritant may cause thick scars 
on them. 


In order to show what contempt the Ibadans now had for the 
5gbas as fighters, they sang while they danced : — 

" Kanakana Ajibade 

Ohan, ghan ni ndun. 

A ri Egba Igkankan a se bi ogun ni, 

Ija suk§ suke ni ija Egba, 

Ija Ule lile n'ija Qyo." 
(The crows of Ajibade 

Ohan ghan they cry. 

Egbas at a distance appear Hke men, 

Nerveless and feeble Egbas are in fight,. 

Strenuous and brave Oygs are in fight.) 

Emboldened by this success, the Ibadans removed their camp 
further to a place called Ajibade (where the Egbas were defeated) 
and the battle ground was now at Alabata (where they were 
driven to) about two hours' walk from Ijaye. 

Several hard battles were fought before they could establish 
themselves here, but at every fight the Ibadans gained ground, 
and so they again removed their camp from Ajibade to Alabata, 
and the battle ground was now at the River Ose not far from the 
walls of Ijaye. 

By this time the ammunition of the Ibadans was exhausted, 
and but for Kehere the Balogun of Ipara the expedition would 
have ended in failure if not disaster to the Ibadans. K§h§re 
was faithful to them to the end. 

The unfriendly Ijebus of Ode and Igbo were daily raiding the 
Ibadan farms. Flying columns had to be organized to protect 
the farmers and chase away the Ijebus. They also kidnapped from 
the caravans to Ijebu Remg (viz. Ipara, Iperu, Ode, Ikorodu) ; the 
Ibadans were obliged to send escorts from the camp from time 
to time to protect these traders to Ipara and back. The Ijebus 
more than once made a regular encampment and erected forts 
to block the way after the caravans had passed on to Ipara, the 
intention being to prevent their return ; but the Ibadans 
always succeeded in routing them, pulhng down the forts, and 
returning home safe with the caravans. In one of these defeats, 
one Kongo a well-known Ijebu, who was formerly a trader and a 
resident at Ibadan was caught with several others ; but Chief 
Ogunmgla lost two of his most vaHant men in this fight, Kukula 
and Erin. He showed his resentment by ordering Kongo to be 
killed on Kukula's grave, and the rest of the Ijebu captives they 
led to the camp at the river Ose, exhibited them to the Egbas 
and Ijayes, and then killed them under their eyes, to show that 
they had been victorious over their allies as well. 


But there was a memorable battle of this kind fought at the 
river Omi in the Ijebu Remo road which was terrible. The Ijgbus 
exasperated by the former defeats were determined to deal a 
crushing blow to the Ibadans the next time. For some weeks the 
caravans could not proceed, the road had become more unsafe 
than ever ; all who came from the provinces assembled at Ibadan. 
Then the chiefs sent powerful escorts from the camp under chiefs 
Abayomi, Tubosun, and Madarik^n, The name of Abayomi 
raised the hopes of the caravans, and an extra large number of 
them flocked together to take advantage of this opportunity. 

After the caravans and escorts had passed on to Remo, a large 
Ijebu army was sent to prevent their return. They erected strong 
stockades right across the path in three places, and placed bodies 
of troops behind each, the main army and the encampment 
being behind the strongest stockade towards Ibadan, and there 
awaited the return of the caravan. Madarikan the leader of the 
van first came at them and fighting ensued ; the first stockade 
was won and they came up to the second. Madarikan was 
wounded in half-a-dozen places and driven back towards Remo, 
bleeding all over and was hors de combat. When Ajiya Abayomi 
came up, he dashed upon the Ijebus with great intrepidity and 
won the second stockade ; he then repelled the enemy until they 
came to the third and strongest stockade with the encampment 
behind it of the main Ijebu army. At the sight of the Ibadans, 
the Ij§bus raised a great shout of triumph and tauntingly asked 
" By what way will you get home now ? You had better try 
flying." From behind the stockade they wrought havoc among 
the Ibadans with impunity, being protected from the bullets 
of the latter by the stockade. 

Chief Abayomi thereupon called some of his most trusty 
servants, and posted them with their men on the highway with 
orders not to yield an inch if all had to perish there. He then 
chose a band of trusty veterans, cut a path through the forest 
and attacked the Ijebus in the rear. When the Ijebus driven 
to bay, saw the foe before and behind, they were furious and 
dashed upon the Ibadans with great intrepidity. At the first 
onslaught, Abayomi the Ibadan leader was shot off his horse, and 
when his veterans saw their master fall and their own fire languish- 
ing, they became exasperated, and with drawn swords they rushed 
upon the Ijebus with great fury and madness, broke through 
their ranks and put to the sword those that could not escape. They 
immediately pulled down the stockade and rejoined those of their 
comrades who had been posted in the highway and had come up. 
They pursued the Ijebus a little way and rescued as many as they 
could of the women and others of the caravans whom the Ijebus had 


captured before the main body of escorts came up. Thus the 
Ibadans eventually won ; the victory though dearly bought was 
complete. Abayomi, however, ralhed, and was able to lead the 
people home. When reports of this victory reached the camp and 
the cost at which it was achieved the Balogun and other senior 
chiefs immediately sent congratulations to Abayomi, Madarikan 
and others, and allowed them to remain at home until their wounds 
were healed before rejoining their comrades in the camp before 

From this and previous achievements Abayomi (through his 
bards) added to his other names " Death to traitors," " Terror to 
the Ijebus," " Maker of safe paths through tangled forests," 

There were further skirmishes on this road while the Ijaye war 
lasted, but none to be compared to the above two remarkable 

Meantime the war before Ijaye continued with undiminished 
vigour the invaders being now replenished with ammunition. 

The Ijaye watchman was posted on the top of a tall tree near 
the River Ose, from whence he could command the view for 
several miles around, and announce the approach of the enemy. 

For a long time the River Ose was the scene of action : which- 
ever party arrived first at the stream gained the opposite bank 
and held it until repulsed. In course of time the Ibadans gained the 
river permanently, and the action thenceforth was on the Ijaye 
side of it. 

At this time all the farms being in the hands of the Ibadans, 
the distress, starvation and consequent mortahty at Ijaye were 
indescribable. Hundreds, nay thousands died in the streets from 
starvation, whole families perished without anyone to bury them. 
All the livestock had been consumed, the garden, the streets, and 
the yards were all planted with corn, but the cornstalks were 
devoured when they could not wait for the corn to develop. The 
herb Gb6r6 a common creeper in the streets was planted in every 
available place and used for food. 

It was generally said then that the advent of the Egbas replen- 
ished their magazines but exhausted their granaries. Now the 
Egbas procured food for themselves from home, but instead of 
succouring their allies, they took advantage of their distress to 
benefit themselves. A child who wandered longingly to an Egba 
tent and obtained a meal of beans (awuje) thereby became his 
slave ! The Egba man who could procure several loads of Awuje 
beans from home, covered all his expenses by securing so many 
Ijaye children as slaves for feeding them ! All these were sent home 
to Abeokuta. 


But the good offices of the missionaries of the C.M.S. and 
American Baptists at Ijaye at this time were never to be forgotten. 
Sympathizing friends at home and abroad sent them supplies, and 
they received and maintained as many Ijaye children as they could. 
The parents also received some assistance and were glad and 
thankful to see their children provided for. The names of the 
Rev. Adolphus Mann, C.M.S. and Mr, J. T. Bowen, American 
Baptist, can never be forgotten by any Ijaye born. 

Mr. Mann's skill in surgery also was in requisition ; he was 
of immense service in extracting bullets and binding up wounds. 
Thus in ministering to the wants of famished children, sheltering 
orphans and performing surgical operations he had his hands 
quite full. 

The Ijaye people had also to oppose a war behind them from 
Oyo. a small force under Amodu was sent to Iran, as he alone 
was quite enough to oppose the Oyo army which encamped at 
Ilora whence they issued for the fight. 

The AlAfin whose battle Ibadan was fighting had to supply 
both the Ibadan and Ilgra camps with gunpowder and bullets 
and for the latter purpose the services of all Oyo smiths were in 

The AlAfin also invited the Baribas, but their cavalry on 
which they solely depended were of little use in forest lands ; the 
I j ayes at Iran concealing themselves in the thickets surrounding 
the town had the advantage of them. Although Iran was a small 
village yet the men were able to repulse the attacks of the Oyos 
and Baribas. 

But if they could not capture Iran these Baribas were a source of 
great annoyance to the I j ayes by kidnapping in their farms and 
thereby increasing the amount of distress and starvation in the 
town. This gave rise to the pathetic wail : 

" Ibadan mu, Fiditi mu 
Ojojumo ni ara Ago iimu ni I'oko 
Ojojumo ni ara Ago fiyan mumusin l§hin odi 
Oran yi jo bi ala I'oju mi." 

Ibadan kidnaps, Fiditi kidnaps. 

Daily the men of Ago kidnap in our farms. 

Daily the men of Ago capture for service behind our walls, 

This matter to me is like a dream ! " 

§ 4. Famine and the Sword 

As we have already noticed, most of the Oke Ogun towns were 
under the rule of the Are of Ijaye ; at this crisis they became 


the source of food supply to Ijaye, and both men and women 
frequented these regions for procuring provisions. 

By this time the people of Ijaye had recovered from the first 
shock and horror of a siege, and as the town could not be carried 
by assault, and was now fairly supplied with food from the Oke 
Ogun regions, and with ammunition from Abeokuta, the hopes of 
taking the town soon became very small. 

The Ibadans now tried to cut off their supplies by sending a 
small army to Oke Ogun. Isgyin was friendly to Ijaye and 
Ibadan, and both were admitted within her walls. A man called 
Ojelabi went to Iseyin and began to seize people's things in the 
market for " privilege " as an Ibadan man; Majaro the Aseyin 
ordered him out of the town, but he not only refused to go 
but was also setting houses on fire with a lighted torch. He was 
ultimately driven out under a shower of stones. The Ibadans 
hearing that Ojelabi was driven out and not knowing the cause, 
sent one Rogunto ask whether it wastheirintentiontorebel,or why 
had they expelled Oj elabi . B ut as Rogun and his party were likewise 
pillaging the town they did not fare any better but were driven 
out by force of arms. Before this happened however, the Isgyin 
people showed evident signs of impatience at the language and 
actions of these men, and sounded in their songs a note of an 
impending civil fight : — 

" Ibadan ti o k^ ti ko lo 
Awowo a w6 o " 

(The Ibadan who sticks and won't go. 
A great crash will crush him.) 

The Ibadan boys on their part took up the challenge and retorted 

" A f'adamo da 'mo lekun Awowo." 
(The shot gun will shut up all crashes and crushings.) 

The civil fight soon set in, and Rogun held out till the evening 
before he was finally expelled the town. 

Iwawun, Erin, and Away^ were for Ijaye, but Bergkodo and 
other Ibarapa districts were for Ibadan. One AkSwo was sent 
from the camp to ask the Iwawun people why they were supplying 
food to Ijaye, the answer returned not being satisfactory the result 
was a little war here also. The Are hearing this sent Amodu, 
Arawgle, Adelakiin, Abese and Labudanu to reinforce Iwawun. 
When Akawo found them too strong for him, he sent to the camp 
for re-inforcement, and Latosisa and other petty war-chiefs were 
sent to his help. Still they found the power of the I j ayes too much 


for them to withstand, so much so that instead of besieging 
Iwawun, they were on the defensive, being practically besieged 
in their camps. 

Iwawun and Erin were advantageously situated for defensive 
purposes, being built on a high hill and surrounded by a mass 
of huge craggy rocks ; the town wall was built at the foot of the 

The Ibadan chiefs knowing that as long as Ijaye could draw 
supplies from these places the town could not be taken, Ogunmgla 
was resolved to go himself and deal a decisive blow to their power 
here. The Balogun alone with his men and some minor chiefs 
being left in charge of the camp, Ogunmola his Otun and Osundina 
the Osi headed the rest of the war-chiefs to Oke Ogun. 

Passing by the Ijaye farms to Fiditi, they reached the Oyo 
camp at flora. The AlAfin sent one of the eunuchs to welcome 
them and take them presents of bullocks, sheep, goats, fowls, 
etc. Ogunmola respectfully dechned to accept them now : he 
sent to tell the King that he would receive them after his return 
from taking Iwawun within nine days. 

Ogunmola spoke that day as an oracle. He ordered Ajayi 
Ogboriefon the captain of the Ibadan contingent there to march 
on before him and receive a shot in that well-fed stomach of his. 

" You are leading an easy life here with our King under pretence 
of fighting against this little place," he said to him. 

On reaching Iseyin Ogunmola went to pay his compHments 
to the Aseyin, and prostrated before him in salutation. The Aseyin 
forgetful of himself received him as a subject, but he had to pay 
dearly for it some years afterwards when Ogunmola became a 
Basorun of Ibadan, and consequently his official superior. The 
army passed on to Iwawun ; rumours of a large reinforcement to 
the Ibadan force there reached the ears of the I j ayes at Iwawun, 
and some of those among them suggested that they should 
withdraw entirely before the break of day, but Arawole and 
Amgdu said " Should we not see what is d^i^^ng us before we run 
away ? Or what shall we say to the Ar§ at home ? " Up to this 
time they had no positive knowledge as to who the leader of the 
expedition was. 

Early next morning the Ibadans took a hasty breakfast, and 
soon after they filed out for the attack on Iwawun instead of 
waiting for an attack as usual. Those of the I j ayes who had 
suspected an access of reinforcement were now positive, for other- 
wise the small Ibadan force could not have been so bold this 
morning. In order to keep the expedition as secret as possible, 
apart from his rapid movements, Ogunmola forbade his drummer 


to beat and those of the other chiefs Hkewise, lest his arrival be 
known to the enemy ; but when the hour for battle was come, he 
ordered all the drummers including those of the other chiefs to 
strike up his own battle cry. Consequently the I j ayes were all 
dismayed and panic stricken when they heard : — 

" A f'oke, afi 'gbo (But the hills, but the woods, 

Ko s'eni ti o le duro." There's no one to withstand me.) 

Now they were forced to credit the report that Ogunmola himself 
was the leader of the expedition. It was thought most improbable 
that in the face of the Ijaye and Egba armies Ogunmola and staff 
with the other war-chiefs would venture to leave the camp. 

But the I j ayes were men in the true sense of the word ; after the 
first shock of this discovery, they steeled their hearts and threw 
themselves on their assailants with great intrepidity but the 
odds were greatly against them. It is reported that the chief 
of Awaye was bribed or terrorized into disclosing a secret path 
by which an enemy might enter Iwawun, but this is very doubtful, 
because Awaye herself had to share the fate of Iwawun afterwards. 
Whatever it may be, Iwawun was taken by assault, and within an 
hour the town was in flames ! The Ijaye heroes had an opportunity 
of escape but did not avail themselves of it. Amodu fought and 
died a hero's death. He had borne a distinguished part all through 
this war, and in him Ijaye sustained an irreparable loss. 

Five of the Are's sons were caught and slain, including Arawole 
his eldest surviving son. The death of Arawole sent a thrill of 
horror and grief throughout the camp and town of Ibadan. Many 
were the ill-suppressed murmurs against Ogunmola for this heartless 
murder, for, although Kurumi was now a foe, he was still a name 
and a venerable figure in the history of Yoruba, a contemporary of 
the fathers of these Ibadan chiefs and the last surviving link 
between their past in the old homes desolated by the Fulanis, 
and these forest lands to which they have escaped. Now he was 
old and on the verge of the grave, to extinguish his light in his 
eldest son was an event no reflecting patriot could calmly con- 
template. Ibikunle the Balogun was said to have shed a tear 
when he heard it, and none but that heartless diplomat Ogunmola 
could have killed Arawole thus. Of the Ijaye chiefs, the Abese, 
Labudanu and Adejumo alone escaped to tell the tale. About ten 
others perished there. 

Erin also was taken very easily the same day, and numbers 
of the Ijaye caravans who went there to buy provisions fell into 
their hands but a great many escaped into the bush. 

On the return march of the Ibadans Ogunmola had 


recourse to a ruse by which he entrapped hundreds of those 
who had escaped into the bush. Instead of his own battle cry, 
he ordered the drummers to strike up that of the Are of Ijaye, 
and when those who had escaped into the bush heard : — 
" Ija Orogun koro, Orogun." 
(Bitter is the quarrel of rivals, the rivals.) 

they naturally thought their master had come to their help 
against Ogunmola, and as they issued one by one from their 
hiding places to flock to his standard, they fell an easy prey 
into the hands of the Ibadans.^ 

On the 9th day of his leaving the Ilgra camp, he arrived there 
again as he promised to do ; and singularly Ajayi Ogboriefon was 
also wounded in his " well-fed " stomach, even as Ogunmola said. 

But during the absence of Ogunmola and the flower of the 
Ibadan army at Iwawun, brave deeds were done behind the walls 
of Ijaye. It was now or never with the alHes, and the Are was 
determined to take the Ibadan camp before their return. Had 
Ibikunle not been a particularly brave and experienced general, he 
could never have withstood the force of the impact made upon him. 

Appraising the Egbas at their true valuation, notwithstanding 
numbers, the Balogun opposed to them his Areagoro Aijenku 
but himself withstood the more vigorous attack of the I j ayes. 

It was on this occasion that the Are at the head of a choice body 
of veterans made a dash on the Ibadan centre with a determination 
to break through ; but he might as well have hurled himself upon 
an immovable rock ! Again and again he tried and failed, and not 
only so, but the young woman, a devotee, who carried before him 
into battle his covered calabash of charms for safety and success, 
was severely wounded and had to be carried away. An eye-witness 
who stood by him all through and who related the events to the 
writer, said seeing his non-success, all disconsolate and despairing 
he sat under fire in the midst of the battle saying " How can I go 
back, how can I ? I cannot, I cannot." His attendants and body- 
guard had literally to carry him to the rear. The old general 
seemed to have forgotten that he was no longer young, and that 
for deeds of might and strength, age must give place to youth. 
Aijenku acquitted himself against the Egbas so well, that he had 
no need to ask for reinforcement from his chief. There can be 

1 History repeats itself. It will be seen hereafter how by a 
singular act of retributive justice, Ogunmola lost his only son 
and heir in battle by the same trick being practised upon 
his son by the Ekitis. 


no doubt that the Balogun gained in prestige enormously by this 
action and fully justified the eulogies of his bard 

" Odunbudere Okunrin 
A to ft ise ogun ran." 
(Odunbudere (an untranslatable word) a mighty man, 
Fit to be entrusted with the onus of war!) 

On the return of the Ibadan expedition after the usual welcome 
the Balogun was said to have expressed himself bitterly to 
Ogunmola on the slaughter of the Are's sons especially that of 
Arawole. " Arawole," said he "is our own companion, and the 
Are, a contemporary of our fathers, how long further has he to live, 
and who is to uphold his house ? " Ogunmola was said to have 
justified his acts by saying " If we want the war to be over soon, 
sentiment must give way to something practical, a crushing blow 
was needed at Iwawun, and that is what I have dealt." 

The cutting off of provisions by the destruction of the Oke Ogun 
towns gave a death blow to Ijaye. The Are on hearing the 
sad news was crushed entirely by it. It was as if he had received 
his death warrant; he saw clearly that all hopes for Ijaye were 
now gone, and with a dejected spirit he was often seen in his 
house wandering about abstractedly and muttering to himself 
" Nje emi ni mo jebi oran yi ? " (am I then in the wrong in this 
matter ?) He had hitherto been confident of success from the 
supposed justice of his cause, but now he was sadly 

From this time the old general began to languish, and no more 
great deeds were recorded of him. He died of a broken heart 
in the month of June, 1861. 

Thus passed away one of the most venerable and historic 
figures in Yoruba history. 

Prior to his death occurred that of another notable figure, a 
friend, colleague, and brother in arms. The Olu-Ode or chief of 
the hunters of ancient Ikoyi with Kurumi were among the bravest 
defenders of the old country. After the Fulani destruction of their 
homes he retired hither with Kurumi and lived the rest of his life 
at Ijaye. During this war he wrought havoc amongst the Ibadans 
with his cross bow and arrows. He was never known to miss his 
aim. In one of their skirmishes he was caught by the Ibadans. 
When brought into the camp it was said that the Balogun met and 
saluted him, prostrating before him as to his own father, and there 
and then gave him his liberty on parole. This was against the 
wish of Ogunmola who would have him killed at once, but the 
Balogun overruled it. 


Another chief, a cavalry officer was also caught, one who had 
successfully crossed spears with the Fulanis in olden days. He, 
too, was set free on parole, and he wisely retired to Ibadan where 
he spent the rest of his days. 

But the Olu-odg broke his parole, he was caught again trying 
to escape back to Ijaye. This time even the Balogun could 
not save him, much as he would like to do so ; the other war-chiefs 
threatened to mutiny if the Olu-ode was again spared, and the 
Balogun was obliged to give way. " Why are you going back to 
a doomed city ? " he asked of the old chief. His reply was direct 
and simple: " My children are there." " Alas sire, you die, 
but for a cause not unworthy, you are laying down your Ufe on 
account of your children." Thus did the Balogun address him 
before he was led away to execution by Ogunmgla's swordbearers. 

After Kurumi's death, Abogunrin his head slave had the honour 
of burying him. This was done in secret, and the two slaves 
who dug the grave were slain also to accompany their master 
so that the spot might not be disclosed ; but the place was found 
out afterwards, and the skull taken over to the AlAfin as the 
custom was, for all who bore the title of Ar§-ona-Kakanfo. 

The government of the town, and the conduct of the war now 
devolved upon Abogunrin the Are's head slave, who had been 
placed in power even before his master's death. His treasures and 
all his ammunition being under the charge of Abogunrin, 
implicit obedience was rendered to him by all, in all matters both 
civil and mihtary. 

The only road left to the I j ayes by which they could obtain 
provisions and ammunition was the Ab§okuta road, and on this 
the Ibadans began now to kidnap regularly. The caravans had 
to be under miUtary escort, and the Egba outpost at Olokemeji 
was an immense service to them at this time. 

The old chief Ogunbgna the Balogun of Ikija who was stationed 
there died of illness, but a small force was still kept there to assist 
the caravans half way ; the danger lay between Ijaye and Oloke- 
meji, beyond this it was safe. One Oje was a notable escort, but 
he was caught in the Ijaye farms, and publicly executed. 

Early in 1862 the Ibadans removed their camp once more from 
Alabata, and crossing the river Ose they pitched their tents in the 
battlefield ; three fierce battles were fought to prevent this but 
as the Ibadans were able to maintain their ground, the fate of 
Ijaye was sealed. 

Leaving the Balogun to face the Ijayes, Ogunmgla now went to 
the Abeokuta road and besieged the Egbas in their camp. The 
Ijayes thereupon left the town and encamped in the field opposite 


the Ibadan camp. The fighting now was both obstinate and fre- 
quent, for besides fighting in the da3', a special band of skirmishers 
was organized to keep it up all night. 

On the 15th of March, 1862, Lieut. Dolbein, of H.M.S. 
Prometheus, accompanied by Mr, Edward Roper, a European 
missionary of the C.M.S, came up to Ijaye to the reUef of Mr, and 
Mrs. Mann. 

A battle was fought on the i6th which he witnessed, and he 
was said to have expressed his opinion that the Ibadans were 
superior warriors judging from the manoeuvrings on both sides, 
and that the town was sure to be taken. But Mr. Mann was 
unwilUng to leave his post, the state of Mrs. Mann's health, however, 
rendered it imperative that he should take her down to the coast 
and he promised to return soon to his post. Mr. Edward Roper 
volunteered to hold the station until his return. 

The Rev. A. and Mrs. Mann with Lieut. Dolbein left Ijaye 
early on the 17th March, 1862, and as soon as it was knowfi that 
the white man had left the town, it was regarded as an evil omen 
for that town. The Egbas said that the white man's God had 
shown them that evil was coming, and would not themselves 
wait for it either. Before night fail, there was a rush, fugitives 
overtook them even in the course of the day, and they had to 
redouble their speed both to avoid the crush of fugitives and also 
to escape the expected pursuers. Fortunately the Ibadans did 
not know in time that the town had been deserted or they might 
have met them by the way ; still some of the stragglers were met 
later on when pursuit was made. 

Thus fell Ijaye, a town of ease and plenty, a town compact, 
and full of brave men, an industrious town, but too despotically 
governed, a town in which the citizens were marked by restlessness 
and daring. 

Ijaye and Ibadan being sister towns and the people one, many 
wise heads in the former place made captives (as it were) of their 
wives and children, putting halters round, the necks of their 
own brothers and led them to Ibadan to the house of their relatives 
without being detected. Once there, they were free. But knowing 
each other so well, some were detected and captured. Some lost 
their bearings and missed their way in the town and were captured, 
some fell into the hands of acquaintances and were rescued. The 
Ijaye warriors in the camp with their chiefs escaped with the 
Egbas to Abeokuta, Abogunrin at their head. 

The Egbas assigned them a portion of land where they pitched 
their tents, and there they subsequently built their houses. The 
spot is known as AgQ Ijaye to this day. 


When the Rev. D. Hinderer of Ibadan heard of the capture of 
Mr. Edward Roper, he sent to negotiate for his release from 
Ogunmola in whose possession he was, but this hard-hearted 
soldier refused to give him up unless he was released for 200 
bags of cowries (equivalent then to £200) 200 kegs of powder and 
200 guns. Mr. Hinderer then went in person and remonstrated 
with Ogunmola. The latter grew more stern, refusing to abate 
any one of his terms, rather than that he would keep him, and if 
he was incapable of performing any material service for him, still 
he should be able to tend his poultry yard in his farm. " We have 
learnt that white men live on eggs and milk I will feed this one with 
parched corn." And he added " We know that this is not the 
actual white man of Ijaye, whom we often saw in the battlefield : 
this one only entered the town a few days ago, hence you have 
such easy terms, otherwise we should have killed him right out, 
for he fought us, and we had our eyes on him." Mr. Mann we know 
did not fight, but reHeved the wounded men; however, there were 
two " Afro American " sharp-shooters,^ who harassed the Ibadans 
a good deal with their rifles. 

Mr. Hinderer then asked for the interference of the Balogun, of 
Aijenku and of Ajiya Abayomi ; they all interceded but in vain, 
he remained obdiu-ate. Mr. Hinderer then sent two of his agents 
to the Alafin of Oyo to appeal to His Majesty for his interference. 

The King then sent the following message to Ogunmola : — 
" What your Balogun Ibikunle, and your colleagues Aijenku 
and Abayomi failed to obtain from you, I know you have reserved 
the honour for me, and now I ask you to give up the white man 
freely and without any charges." In obedience to the King 
Ogunmola gave Mr. Roper up to his friends, the latter being too 
glad to be once more among his countrymen. 

Besides the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Hinderer, Mr. Roper met also 
at Ibadan, Mr. George Jeffries a friend and college mate of his, 
and both of them resided together. 

A few months- after Mr. Roper's arrival at Ibadan, his friend 
Jeffries was laid up from diarrhoea. Roper's presence here at this 
time cannot but be regarded otherwise than as providential, 
to comfort and cheer up his friend's dying hours. Jeffries passed 
quietly away and Roper undertook the charge of his station at 
Ogunpa, Ibadan. He remained there till he was able to return to 
England in 1865. 

The good offices of His Majesty the AlAfin to the missionaries 
claim our special notice. This was the second of the kind during 
this war. Mr. Samuel Cole, a native schoolmaster, was once 

» Messrs. Vaughan and Pettiford. 


kidnapped between Ijaye and Iseyin in the early part of the 
conflict, (i860). Mr. Hinderer hearing this sent Mr. (now Rev.) 
D. Olubi to the AlAfin, who kindly ordered his release and sent 
him to Ibadan. Mr. Cole returned to Abeokuta by the Remo road. 
The Ijaye war was one of the bloodiest fought by the Ibadans, 
as may be expected " When Greek meets Greek." But the only 
chief of note that fell was Osundina the Osi (father of the well- 
known Ibadan chief Apampa). He was shot in the knee, but he 
kept his post till the battle was over that day. He died a few days 
after. How many thousands upon thousands of common soldiers 
died on both sides it is impossible to say, but a faint idea could be 
had from the only authentic account kept. 

At the commencement of the war Ogunmola ordered that a 
correct account of his soldier slaves who fell in battle should be kept. 
For that purpose a huge basket 5 or 6ft. high was kept and the cap 
of every slave of his who fell in battle was thrown into it. When 
Ijaye was taken Ogunmola counted the caps, they amounted to 
1800, representing the soldier slaves of his who fell between April 
10, i860, and March 17, 1862, exclusive of freeborn soldiers ; and 
that was for only one single chief ,* what then of the whole Ibadan 
army and those of the provinces; what of the Ijayes, the Egbas, the 
Oyos, and the Oke Ogun peoples, and Ijebus engaged in this war ! 

It shows the redoubtable courage of the assailants and the 
obstinate resistance of the defenders. It justifies Ibikunle's 
reluctance to declare war upon their kith and kin. But those 
who knew Ijaye best, and were acquainted with the details of 
the enormities being committed there in the years before the war, 
were satisfied that their judgment was from above ; the cup of 
their iniquities was full and not only the besiegers but also their 
very allies helped to bring about their ruin. This was evident from 
the significant song commonly sung in their dances in those days: — 

" Onigbeja li o fo 'gun, 
Iwi I'a ko gbodo wi." 
('Twas our alHes caused our rout, 
But we must not say 'tis so.) 
The Egb^s have always been ashamed of this defeat which 
did not admit of being explained away, but many regarded it as 
a just punishment for their perfidy. And singularly, scarcely any 
of the principal chiefs concerned survived the war, thus recalUng 
Sokenu's retort on them. Henceforth Oygs never have any 
fear in meeting any Egbas in the field, whatever the odds. 

Ijaye was taken, but the war was not over, the bad blood left 
behind rankled for the next three years. 

Chapter XIX. 


§ I. The Awaye War 

The Ibadans being determined to punish Away^ for supplying 
Ijaye with provisions during the siege, now sent the Asipa and 
subordinate chiefs at the head of the army against it, leaving 
only the Balogun and the Otun in the Ijaye camp ; and so Away6 
was besieged. 

Away^ was a small but beautiful town situated on a plateau, 
the scenery from which is very picturesque, the Ado mount rising 
in lofty magnificence a few miles off, and the open country for 
miles around interspersed with the locust and the lya trees. The 
inhabitants were a very peaceful and agricultural people, and were 
faithful and loyal to Ijaye to the very last. In fact, Ijaye was the 
only town of importance to which they could sell their agricultural 

The men of that town had no guns, but they were very expert 
in the use of their bow and poisoned arrows, and for full seven 
months they obstinately defended the town. It was at last 
reduced by famine, being closely invested on every side, so that 
they could not get to their farms ; but the able-bodied men cut 
their way through the Ibadans and made good their escape. In 
fact the Ibadans hastily made way for these desperate men, when 
they saw them making a furious charge and were singing the well- 
known song of desperadoes escaping life in hand : — 

" Oyin su, Oyin Ig o 
Oyin a sii, Oyin a pgn roro." 
(Bees in a swarm, bees swarming away, 
Bees will swarm, the swarm, o how red.) 

Thus these brave defenders deserted the town when famine and 
the sword rendered it no longer tenable. 

The remnant of the Away6 people are now encamped at the foot 
of the Ado mount. 

The Ibadan army returned from this expedition in the month 
of October, 1862. The latter rains were then incessant and the 
rivers much swollen ; the Ogun river in particular swept many 
away, both horses and men. 


356 the history of the yorubas 

§ 2. The Iperu War 

During the siege of Awayd, the Egbas and the Ijaye refugees 
at Abeokuta went also to take revenge on the Remo towns that 
were friendly to the Ibadans during the siege of Ijaye. 

On the 19th of June, 1862, the Egbas destroyed Makun, 
and advanced against Ode, Ogere, aiming specially at Ipara whose 
Balogun Rehire was a particularly active ally of Ibadan. The 
Rem OS therefore sent to Ibadan for help and Ogunmola went 
straight from the Ijaye camp to Remo, theBalogun himself although 
in ill health rejoining him soon after, until the army at Awayd 
could join them. Ogunmola in the meantime found his way to 
Ikorodu for a supply of ammunition. 

Iperu easily surrendered to the Egbas and there the triple forces 
of the Egbas, Ijayes and Ijebus were concentrated to repel the 
Ibadans and overrun Remo. 

The Ibadans retook several towns as Ipara, Ogere etc., sweeping 
all before them until they came up with their old antagonists 
again, re-inforced by the Ijebus at Iperu. 

At home, the Ibadans at first made light of the combination, 
hence they sang in their'dances : — 

" Ijebu ko pe okowo, 
Nitori eru I'a se nlo." 
(The Ijebus are not worth a sou [lit. 20 cowries] 
Only for booty are we going). 

But the chiefs knew the difficulties that confronted them, 
especially as the foe blocked the route of their supply of ammuni- 
tion. Moreover Ajiya Abaygmi pointed out that Remo being a 
non-agricultural country, could not supply an army with food : 
they must therefore be provisioned from home and would thus be 
far from their base ; besides Ijebu is proverbially destitute of 
water ; he therefore, suggested that they should attack them from 
Ijebu Igbo, which is not far from the Ibadan farms S.E. as 
opposition from that point would be almost m7, and in that way they 
would withdraw the coaUtion against their friends the Remos, and 
with their own farms as base, they would have a safe and easy task. 

The other chiefs saw with him, but, said they, their aim was 
not to destroy the Ijebus but to protect their friends ; and it would 
be most ungracious to leave the Remos who had been so loyal 
to them in their hour of danger,. 

Thus the encounter was again renewed between the old anta- 
gonists in a different battlefield. The Ibadans were again sweeping 
all before them, and Iperu was just nearly taken and the con- 
federates crushed when Providence decreed the arrest of their 


progress. The tide turned dead against them ; a combination 
of causes created insurmountable difficulties. 

1. The Egbas now introduced superior weapons. They were 
armed with breach-loading guns and rifles. 

2. One Mr. Pettiford an American sharp-shooter was engaged 
to pick down the chiefs, thus Odunjo the Seriki, Madarikan the 
Asaju, Chief Adepo, and others fell. Ogunmola himself was nearly 
hit, his hat being knocked off his head. 

3. The Ibadans having hemmed them up at Iperu were conse- 
quently near enough to be within the range of the rifles, and so 
from within the town walls and surrounding thickets they were 
constantly harassed in their camps. 

4. The Balogun's illness grew worse, he could not leave his bed 
and several of the leading chiefs were killed. 

5. The distance of their base, the difficulty of food supply and 
the scarcity of water told against them. The whole camp had 
to depend upon one single well which they dug when water could 
not be obtained otherwise ; a very deep well it was and the only 

6. No scope to deploy their troops for manoeuvring against 
superior numbers and superior weapons ; and worst of all they ran 
short of powder for the old Dane guns they were using, so that 
instead of taking the offensive they were now on the defensive in 
their camps ; the Egbas could come out and cut down the corn 
they had planted and offer battle. 

The direction of the war devolved upon Ogunmola alone in 
the absence of the sickBalogun, the Osi killed at Ijaye, the Seriki, 
Asaju and others shot down at Iperu. Matters came to such a 
pass one day, when Ogunmola was hard pressed that he sent to 
call the Balogun from his sick bed " to die if needs be like a soldier 
in the field." 

Once more the " lion of the master of camps " aroused himself 
and appeared on the scene of action for the last time. He was 
literally helped and held on horse back, one desperate effort 
was made, and the Egbas were pushed a Httle way back. But the 
Balogun could not continue long, he left some of his men with 
Ogunmola, to hold the ground they had regained and he was 
borne back to his tent. His legs had become so cedematous 
when he was hfted off his horse, that his riding boots had to be 
ripped open with a knife in order to release his legs ! Thus the war 
dragged wearily on, Iperu could not be taken by assault or other- 
wise, nor could the Ibadans be dislodged from their entrenchments. 

Towards the latter part of 1864 the Alafin intervened, as his 
father did in the late Bat§do war. His Majesty sent the high 


priest of Sango with the emblems of the deity, and a eunuch to 
represent himself, to the belligerents. They came first to the 
Ibadan camp, and then passed on to Iperu to the Egbas, Ijayes 
and Ijebus ; in each place, homage was paid to the god and fealty 
to the representative of the monarch. The " God Sango had 
enjoined a cessation of arms and the return of each one to his home." 
Peace was then declared between the belligerents. 

Congratulatory messages were sent home by friends and relatives 
in opposite camps, mutual visitings took place and all went well 
for three or four days. 

But the Ibadan principal chiefs had no great confidence in 
Egba good faith, having the perfidy of i860 before their eyes ; 
they, therefore, took certain precautions. 

First, they ordered all the sick and wounded home (except the 
Balogun), together with the women and children by slow marches. 
Secondly, the bones of the fallen chiefs were exhumed and sent home 
for re-interment. 

They were apprehensive of treachery from the Egbas immediately 
they turned their backs, but to prevent a panic they did not disclose 
their fears or suspicion, but Ogunmgla knowing himself to be the 
most invidious of the lot and a special object of hate hastened away 
in the night and before daybreak had reached Ipara. In his 
hurry his slaves on occasion made way for him with the sword, 
and seeing his only daughter Omosa in the company of women 
who had been sent on the day before, he lifted her on to his saddle 
and never halted until he reached Fawe in the Ibadan farms, 
there to await his comrades. 

But the majority of the women lingered by the way, others 
in the camp, seeing no reason why they should be in a hurry 
as all was peace. The Balogun who was dropsical and could not 
ride was borne on a htter. 

Now when the day arrived for the breaking up of the camp, 
and the Ibadans already on the move, the Egba nature asserted 
itself by justifying the worst apprehensions entertained of it. 
They had crowded the Ibadan camp in friendly intercourse, and 
exchanged greetings, but the prey was now eluding their grasp ; 
they pounced upon the unsuspicious and began to make prisoners 
and pressed forward in pursuit. Some of the chiefs who did not 
suspect treachery were caught. The venerable Sumala the Otun 
Bale who would have been made the Bale of Ibadan on their 
return home was caught and killed. Chief Abayomi was one of 
the unsuspicious, the Egbas had begun to make prisoners before 
he was aware of what was going on. Mounting his horse when it 
was tethered he forgot to unloose it till one of his slaves severed 


the cord with his sword. He had to fight his way out and escaped. 

Soderinde, although a native of Iperu but a resident at Ibadan, 
and a distinguished cavalry officer was then at home among his 
relatives enjoying himself ; he was there arrested and had to 
ransom himself by the payment of a heavy fine, and had to remain 
there at home for the time. At the stream Afidiwo the Egba 
pursuers overtook theBalogun and his guards ; these stood fighting 
whilst those who bore him were hastening on. But the Egbas 
were pressing closely endeavouring to take the Balogun alive. 
When they reached the river Omi the Balogun ordered his carriers 
to put him down and that the Egbas be driven back from that place 
Akere the Asipa was the only war-chief who waited to protect the 
Balogun besides his own men and bodyguards. Here, when 
they had rallied and arranged themselves in order of battle, they 
made a furious charge on the Egba pursuers and drove them clean 
away with a heavy loss. These soon finding it unprofitable to 
pursue armed men when hapless women and children were to be 
got, quickly gave up the pursuit. 

All, as many as escaped, assembled at Fawe from which place 
they returned home one by one, mostly at night on account of the 
disastrous ending of the expedition. More women were lost 
than men. Kehere the Balogun of Ipara wisely came to Ibadan 
until peace had been completely restored. 

For weeks and months, people were coming home by degrees, 
as numbers had escaped into the bush and lost their way ; some 
strayed to Ijebu farms and were captured, some found their 
way back to the road or to Ibadans farms and returned home, 
whilst some perished in the forests. 

A small force of armed men was ordered to proceed as far as the 
river Omi with the hopes of rescuing them, following the directions 
in which those who had escaped located large bodies of them. A 
few were rescued by them, for guns fired to attract their notice 
unfortunately had the effect of driving them farther into the 
forests, as reported by the few which escaped. 

The view taken of this disaster by the Ibadans was expressed 
thus in the song and dances of the day : — 

" Sango I'o laja ti o d'obirin nu, 
Ogun ko le wa." 

("Twas Sango's mediation that lost us our wives, 
We've suffered no defeat.)^ 

^It is only fair to mention that the Egbas atoned for this 
action in a very diplomatic way as we shall find in §5 following. 


The experience gained from this circumstance was the reason for 
the caution displayed many years afterwards when peace was 
being arranged between the Ibadans and Ekitis at Kiriji by various 
parties. The Ibadans refused to decamp in the face of their 
foes without a guarantee against a pursuit until the British Govern- 
ment intervened in 1886 and arranged for a simultaneous decamp- 

§ 3. The Ikorodu War 

The Egbas instead of returning home after this, led the conjoint 
army against Ikorodu. Ikorodu is a town situated on the Lagoon 
about 3 hours' steam from Lagos. Whether because as a Remo 
town she took no part in the late war, or because she was secretly 
in alHance with Ibadan is not certain. They were here for 
several months and some good fighting was done on both sides. 
But Ikorodu was hopelessly outnumbered. When she was nearly 
taken, the chiefs applied for the protection of the British Govern- 
ment at Lagos. The Lagos traders and merchants also suffering 
from the closing of the markets approved of the interference of 
the Governor. His Excellency John Hawley Glover, then governor 
of Lagos, therefore sent to the Egbas to raise the siege, as Ikorodu 
was a peaceful town on the Lagoon with a regular trade with Lagos, 
which was thus beingindirectly injured. On their refusing to do so, 
he sent them an ultimatum which was also disregarded. On the 
29th March, 1865, the Governor sent about 100 men of the West 
Indian regiment then quartered at Lagos with a few shells and 

Within an hour of the engagement the Egbas had taken to 
their heels, large numbers perished in the flight. It was ascertained 
afterwards that those who fell from bullets were very few indeed 
but the majority died from fright and thirst induced by exhaustion 
in the flight ; for as the rockets flew overhead with hideous noise 
and streaming fiery tails, a thing unseen before, they were panic- 

As soon as the report reached Iperu of the flight of the Egbas 
from Ikorodu, Soderinde in order to retrieve his losses and to 
avenge himself on the Egbas, collected^ his men and as many 
Ibadan boys, as he could collect who had come down for trade, and 
they fell upon those of the Egbas who had escaped from Ikorodu 
and were recovering their breath. He made many captives, and 
returning he stayed no longer at Iperu but passed on straight 
to Ibadan where he domiciled until his death in 1880 full of days 
and honour having attained to the rank of Balogun in the cavalry. 
Thus Ikorodu was saved. 

sequels of the ijaye war 361 

§ 4. The Second Dahomian Invasion of Abeokuta 

During the Iperu war, the Dahomians taking advantage of the 
absence of the Egba war-chiefs made a second attack on Abeokuta 
on the 15th of March, 1864. 

It was alleged by some that this was at the instigation of the 
Ibadans in order that the Egbas might withdraw from Iperu, 
and also that men were sent to teach them how to encamp and 
lay siege. How far this is true is not known, but it is certain 
that the Dahomians required no instigation for raiding Abeokuta 
nor did they at any time lay siege against her. 

The Egbas had profited by the experience of 1851, the town 
wall was well repaired, and the trenches dug deep, two or three 
field guns were mounted on the ramparts and sentinels placed 
to prevent a surprise. 

The Christian community, now a numerous body, formed a 
corps by themselves under John Okenla their Balogun, encamping 
apart during intervening Sundays, and having their religious 
services in the field. 

False alarms of the approach of the enemy and the usual 
cry of the women " Ele le m'ele " were constant. The Christians 
gave the people a sign that when they heard the booming of 
the cannon, then they were to be sure of the approach of the 

Early in the morning of the 15th of March, the booming of 
cannon in rapid succession, and the rattling of musketry told the 
town that the enemy was in sight ; the women resumed their cry, 
and the men hastened to man the walls. 

About 7 a.m. the noise of fire-arms was quite deafening and for 
the space of half-an-hour without intermission, all on the side of 
the Egbas who wer€ well within the walls having learnt by experi- 
ence never to attempt to meet them in the open field to arrest their 

The Dahomians without returning the fire, or breaking their 
ranks marched steadily onwards, the Amazons this time bringing 
up the rear. On they marched stolidly till they began to scale 
the walls. Cannon and muskets were now of little use, it was a 
matter of hand-to-hand fighting. The Egbas well within the walls 
kept lopping off the hands of the Amazons as they attempted to 
scale the walls, and in that way hundreds of their advanced 
comrades were left in the trenches. 

When they were repulsed, they fell back and took to their guns. 
The Egbas kept up a steady fire from the holes made in the walls. 
Finding it useless to renew their efforts of taking the town by 
assault, the Dahomian army retreated but in good order. 


The Egbas now came out, hovering in their rear until they saw 
them pass Ibara to Isaga. Many captives were made, of whom 
were Amazons so ferocious, that although chained, many found 
means of killing their captors, and were of course killed in turn. 
A male soldier penetrated as far as Igbein, being caught near 
the C.M.S. station there by the son of an old Ogboni man. He was 
put in stocks, but great care was bestowed upon him to soften his 
ferocity. He refused to eat, and was resolved to die. He was 
heard muttering something in his language, not understood by 
those around, his intention therefore was not known. But he 
managed to obtain and conceal a large bit of stone near him, and 
watching for an opportunity, he dealt a heavy blow with it on the 
face of the old Ogboni man, who, thereupon fell down and fainted 
away. The women-folk in the house set up a yell, and as the 
fellow could not possibly escape he was shot dead on the spot. 

The subsequent Dahomian invasions never came up to the walls 
of Abeokuta, but almost every year their expedition would come 
as far as Ibara, 10 miles from the town, the inhabitants deserting 
the place for Abeokuta, and sometimes they would encamp on 
the Ata hills 5 or 6 miles distant, remaining for a couple of 
months, devastating the farms all around. The Egbas would 
remain day and night keeping watch by the walls till the beginning 
of May when the rainy season had fairly set in, and the rivers began 
to rise. The Ogun river at this time became a wall of protection 
for them, as the Dahomians could not ford it nor bridge it, and they 
had no canoes. The Yewa river also flowing between the Yoruba 
and Idahomian territories had to be forded. The Dahomians 
therefore invariably raised their sieges and returned home before the 
rains had fairly set in. 

During these periods of what is called siege, there were some 
desperadoes among the Egbas who would venture across the river 
to within two miles of the Ata hills to spy out the enemy, and some- 
times to scare them by letting off fire arms. In order to capture 
such men the Dahomians would come down unseen as near as 
possible to the river, dig trenches at intervals on either side of the 
path, and conceal men in them, setting scouts to apprise them of 
the approach of Egba spies. After these -had passed on towards 
the Dahomian camp, they would emerge from their hiding places 
and cut off their retreat, driving them onwards towards their 
camp. In this way several were caught, and some of those who 
escaped capture died of fright, or of exhaustion and thirst. 

The panic and distress caused by these yearly raids became 
very great at Abeokuta, depression of trade and the arrest of all 
agricultural pursuits followed. The Egbas, although better armed, 


yet lacked the courage to leave the security of their walls and 
meet their enemy in the field. This national disgrace was subse- 
quently wiped off by John Okenla the Christian Balogun, who in 
1873 with a company of his men attacked and defeated a body 
of Dahomian raiders at Oba who went scouring the fields and 
pillaging the farms. 

The Enghsh Government was now memorialized by the 
secretaries of the CM. Society on account of the Christians at 
Abeokuta, and, in response to this appeal, the King of Dahomey 
was warned against meddhng with Abeokuta any more. 

The Dahomians now turned their attention to the Yorubas of 
the western province, and were actually devastating the Egbados 
and the Oke Ogun districts until a higher power decreed " Thus 
far shalt thou go, and no further." 

§ 5. The Atonement 

The Balogun of Ibadan died ten days after their return home, 
and was given a public funeral with full honours. 

The government of Ibadan now devolved upon Ogunmola the 
Otun Balogun, and the first thing he did was to assemble the 
other chiefs in council with a view to arranging terms of peace with 
their neighbours. But the perfidy of the Egbas and the great loss 
sustained especially of the women must in some way be avenged 
at any rate. 

The secret somehow leaked out